Why Timelines Matter: Writing Hong Kong’s Art Histories

June 17, 2023 – June 17, 2023
10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Asia Art Archive in America

23 Cranberry St. Brooklyn, NY

Why do we need timelines? For a young but complex field such as Hong Kong Art History, are traditional methods of writing art history still relevant? How does visualizing history through timelines help us see the things that fall outside the usual narrative of Hong Kong art? In this session, participants of “HK Art Workshop” from The University of Hong Kong in collaboration with Asia Art Archive, shared their “time capsule research” and experiences on researching HK art history and the challenges that are faced by those new to the field. Aside from sharing informative timeline data on topics such as the early art gallery scene, art magazines in the 90s, artists’ practices, textile craft, and institutional histories including M+, Tai Kwun and Oil Street, we also hoped to raise questions regarding how Hong Kong art scene is perceived both on the ground and from the outside, and whether there are dis/connects of expectations, interpretations and curiosities.

Sharing Participants: Dr. Yeewan Koon, Ariel Chan, Polly Hui, Kaede Kusano, Alison Leung, Claire Ling, Nicole Ng, John Poon, Ocean Ding, Cindy Wang, Stella Wu and Wei Zhu.

The Hong Kong Art History Timeline stemmed from a class taught at The University of Hong Kong in collaboration with Asia Art Archive. The aim is to design an open-access tool which we hope will provide an entrance point for meaningful conversations about Hong Kong’s art world. This project is supported by UGC Teaching Award Grant and HKU Virtual & Teaching Learning Grant.

Panel 1: Institution

  • Hong Kong’s Early Commercial Art Market, 1950s-1980s – Kaede Kusano
    By examining the network of Hong Kong’s early commercial art galleries from the 1950s through to the 1980s, this project spotlights the individuals and institutions who played an integral role in the development of Hong Kong’s early commercial art market and explores how these players shaped an understanding of Hong Kong art, both then and now.
  • Oil Street to Cattle Depot – Claire Ling, Wei Zhu
    In 1998, the lease of the vacant buildings of the Government Supplies Department facilitated a short period of prosperity for the Oil Street Artist Village, which later became an influential cultural space in Hong Kong. Through investigating artist villages’ turbulent state, the instability of land policy, and the voices of various parties at that time, this project aims to establish a comprehensive tableau of the first Hong Kong artist village.
  • The Long Journey of Baking M+ – Cindy Wang, Stella Wu
    After over two decades of heated debates, M+, Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture, finally opened to the public on November 12, 2021. While the institution appears to have a prosperous future, its establishing procedure has been far from a smooth journey, deeply entangled with government policies, local politics, social critiques, and public involvement.  By examining the key milestones, setbacks, and breakthroughs encountered throughout the long journey of “baking” M+, this project aims to shed light on the institution’s visions, values, and the art ecology of Hong Kong.

Panel 2: Individual Practices

  • Visual Culture Quarrel: Three Hong Kong Art Magazines in the 90s – John Poon
    During the 90s, art magazines in Hong Kong bloomed and flourished. These magazines conveyed an undertone of ideological clash between the artists and the official institution in terms of interpretation and direction. This project looks at three art magazine series published around the 90s to the early 2000s, highlighting the prominent figures in the period, and studying how “visual culture” was interpreted and shaped by ideological conflicts at the time.
  • The Shifting Occupations of Hong Kong Artists – Elaine Ko, Nicole Ng
    By assembling biographical records of artists and creating separate timelines for each artist that mark the changes in their occupations, artistic activities, and institutional support they received in their careers, we see parallels and intersections between our selected artists and observe the shifting landscape and art ecosystem in Hong Kong over the years that influenced the generations of artists.
  • The Shape of Time: Community Art Projects in Ming Pao – Polly Hui, Ocean Wang
    This project traces how Ming Pao, a local newspaper in Hong Kong, evolves as a site of community art, which sparks off human relationships among artists, readers, and beyond. The unarchivability of such human relationships reveals the dilemma of pinpointing community art projects in a linear historical narrative. But why not envision other shapes of time, such as a circle, or even a broccoli?
  • A Timeline, but like a Yarn Ball: Hong Kong Fiber Art and Contemporary Relationships – Ariel Chan
    Fiber and textile art are depreciated when relative to high art. However, the incomparable capabilities this medium possesses need to be brought to light for the complex community networks, history, and stories shaped only through tactility and labor. Hence, this project is a love letter that celebrates Hong Kong Art History that stems from materiality and unites us with humanistic qualities, probing possibilities to how we traditionally study art history.