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Tai Kwun: where heritage and art take flight

LUXE City Guides
  • Written by LUXE City Guides
ANNOUNCEMENT
ANNOUNCEMENT

Tai Kwun is temporarily closed due to the current health precautions. For details, please visit their website.

Hong Kong is famous for its grand-slam dining, shopping and megawatt entertainment, but in recent years, the city has also re-discovered its cultural soul. The development of attractions such as heritage compound Police Married Quarters ( PMQ ) and the modern, architectural home to Cantonese opera, Xiqu Centre , part of West Kowloon Cultural District are among a slew of revitalised and new cultural projects opening across the city.

 

Stealing the limelight when it opened in 2018 was heritage-arts venue Tai Kwun . Occupying a large pocket of land in the middle of Central’s SoHo district is a living record of the legal, judiciary and penal system in Hong Kong; today it is host to 16 revitalised heritage buildings, including the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison, juxtaposed by the contemporary Herzog & de Meuron-designed JC Contemporary and JC Cube. It is the recipient of the Award of Excellence in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation 2019.

Tours in Tai Kwun

Visitors to Tai Kwun can get a glimpse of heritage stories from the late 19th century in Hong Kong through the painstakingly restored heritage buildings and large courtyards, which can be visited independently or as part of one of the organised tours. One of the most popular sections of the compound are the tiny, cramped cells which imprisoned thousands of people. The careful restoration and addition of interactive exhibits make for an atmospheric and informative encounter.

 

But Tai Kwun offers more than just a tiptoe back in time. Alongside the heritage, visitors can enjoy an eclectic mix of visual arts, music and theatre performances, film screenings and educational programs, with a sprinkling of free lunchtime concerts, evening openings and a stellar line-up of F&B outlets — there really is nowhere else quite like it in the city. But why take our word for it? Read on to find out more from those who have connected with the project, from art curators and artists to visitors both local and global — and discover why you too should visit Tai Kwun — go!


Enoch Cheng

Visual Artist

Contemporary artist, performer and director Enoch was commissioned to contribute an interactive audio-walk to the Contagious Cities: Far Away, Too Close exhibition about cities and the history of epidemics hosted by Tai Kwun in 2019.

It’s stood in Hong Kong since the 1800s; it’s witnessed so many changes and there are so many stories that can be told and retold.

Tai Kwun: Where Heritage and Art Take Flight

Photo Credit: Tai Kwun

“People are attracted by Tai Kwun’s history as well as its novelty and my work invited people to participate and engage with the space — it took them around different places in the precinct. I had to work around the specific nature of Tai Kwun; there is a multi-layered history embedded in the venue, be it the stone wall, the prison, the laundry steps, so I used all these unique qualities as the key elements for people to experience it.

 

I first heard about Tai Kwun many years ago, when I was a program manager at Asia Art Archive and I was, and am excited about the potential of the venue. It’s stood in Hong Kong since the 1800s; it’s witnessed so many changes and there are so many stories that can be told and retold. This is fascinating, and creates an opportunity for people, both from Hong Kong and overseas to reflect on the city.”


Ying Kwok

Curator

Independent curator Ying Kwok is renowned for her inventive, collaborative approach, and has held positions in cities as diverse as Manchester in the UK, Gdansk and New York – she was also the curator of the Hong Kong Pavilion at The 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. More recently, Ying was invited by Tai Kwun and the Wellcome Trust UK to curate the Contagious Cities: Far Away, Too Close exhibition.

I think JC Contemporary is a really beautiful museum in which to see contemporary arts.

Tai Kwun: Where Heritage and Art Take Flight

Photo Credit: Tai Kwun

"A lot of the time in the visual arts we’re thinking about how to best promote exhibitions so they appeal to a wider audience. Those who are interested in culture and art will always come, but it’s hard to get the wider community through the door. But at Tai Kwun it’s the opposite; there are so many people who visit the space, and who then also visited the exhibition.

 

It seems that many people — including friends who come to visit and the tourists we talked to – had heard about Tai Kwun before they visited. As well as the heritage buildings, I think JC Contemporary is a really beautiful museum in which to see contemporary arts; it’s definitely a great thing for Hong Kong.”


Erika Bollen

Belgian, living in Hong Kong

I didn’t know what to expect and was surprised because of the contrast between the colonial and modern buildings.

Tai Kwun: Where Heritage and Art Take Flight

(Erika, far right)

“This is my fourth visit to Tai Kwun, I had seen it being renovated and now I always bring visitors here. Initially I didn’t know what to expect and was surprised because of the contrast between the colonial and modern buildings — it’s unique and I love that! The atmosphere changes depending on which building you’re in; at the front it’s very relaxing, the prison area is sad, the modern spaces are arty — it’s a sum of very different parts and I like the fusion. I think prisons are interesting; it’s history, hard history, true history but history and it’s good that people get to see this side of Hong Kong. I suggest taking your time as there’s so much to see; when you allow time, it’s easy to explore.”

“I’ve been to Tai Kwun before and I’m here now with friends who are visiting. Although I live overseas, I come to Hong Kong every year and have seen its transformation — it’s well-preserved, informative and clean. It’s quite surprising when you come in from Hollywood Road as it has this open space and doesn’t look or feel like a prison!” Josephine Lau & friends, Hongkongers living overseas

“I always like how in Hong Kong the old meets new and I came to Tai Kwun after reading that it’s one of the ‘top 50 things to do in Hong Kong’. A lot of what you find here is modern and Hong Kong is seen as a modern city, so it’s nice to see a bit of history. I like the buildings, the colonial architecture is really pretty; it’s classic and also vibrant with the open area in the middle.” Farrah Elizabeth de Souza, South African, living in Hong Kong

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