Annual Le French May Festival set to dazzle with outstanding performances again this year. Hong Kong may be the financial capital of Asia, but it is not all about money making. The city has in recent years reinvented itself into a new cultural hub in the region, with a bourgeoning art scene, brought about by the collaborative effort of the private and public sectors.
While headline-grabbing sales of both contemporary artworks and masterpieces in the city’s art auctions have made Hong Kong the world’s third largest art auction market after New York and London, various initiatives, from the ambitious development of the West Kowloon Cultural District into an arts hub to the year-round exhibitions and programmes of non-profit organisations and commercial galleries and the staging of large-scale art fairs, are breathing new life to the city’s art scene.
Growing interest in and awareness of the arts add an edge to Hong Kong as a tourist destination. Capitalising on the menagerie of arts and cultural events in May, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has designated the month Arts Month, beckoning global art lovers to the city.
Hong Kong has a busy cultural calendar all year round, but May is the time when the art frenzy is at its peak. Since the inauguration of the modern and contemporary art fair ART HK in 2008, arts events, and in particular visual art events, have begun to congregate in early summer, creating a vibrant atmosphere that draws the attention of art lovers from near and far.
Art Basel, staged in Hong Kong for the first time last year, has helped to place Hong Kong prominently on the international art map. Following the success of ART HK, MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd, the organisation behind Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach, acquired a 60 per cent stake in Asian Art Fairs, the organiser of ART HK, in 2011. To differentiate itself from the other Art Basel shows, the Hong Kong show maintains a 50-50 ratio of galleries from Asia and from the rest of the world. More than 60,000 patrons, including private collectors and directors of leading international museums, attended last year’s fair, which showcased more than 3,000 artists.
Art Basel will return to Hong Kong from May 15 to 18, with 245 galleries from 39 countries and territories showcasing artistic talent from all over the globe. There will also be a new film section to promote the rich heritage of film and video art of the city and region.
Coinciding with Art Basel and the arrival of art world leaders, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is showcasing the “Living World” series by renowned Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming until June 15; M+, the visual culture museum, which will open in the West Kowloon Cultural District in 2017, will present its architectural concept by award-winning Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron and the latest museum developments at Art Basel; and Asia Society Hong Kong will host renowned mainland Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing’s first Hong Kong solo show. Other non-profit venues, including the Hong Kong Arts Centre, City University’s School of Creative Media, creative spaces in Chai Wan, Para/Site art space and Asia Art Archive, will also have exhibitions and events throughout the month.
The Hong Kong Art Gallery Association will host an art night on May 13 with late night openings of member galleries around the city. Galleries located in the southern district of Hong Kong Island will also stage an art night on May 15, with extended opening hours to welcome visitors at the weekend.
London-based auction house Bonhams will host its spring sale from May 17, and Christie’s, from May 24 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Those who aren’t planning to purchase art can still visit exhibitions staged by the auction houses, with Asian contemporary art, Chinese fine art and antiques on display before the auctions kick off.
In addition to the abundance of visual art events, the annual Le French May festival will offer a range of art and gourmet experiences in May. A number of works, including classical music performances and art exhibitions, are the collaborative effort of local and overseas artists.