Hong Kong THE HISTORY OF A GLOBAL ART HUB BY ST E P H A N I E B A I LE Y
ong Kong’s art scene is far from a recent phenomenon, even if the city’s dazzling cultural transformation – catalyzed by the transition of Art HK into Art Basel’s Asian flagship in 2013 – has somewhat eclipsed the story of this city’s artistic evolution. The first art gallery operated here on Chatham Road between 1962 and 1966; run by schoolteacher Dorothy Swan, it was where artists could exhibit beyond the City Hall, one of the few exhibition spaces at the time. In 1974, a crew of University of Hong Kong students and graduates registered as the Visual Arts Society, among whom was Gaylord Chan, who had switched to art after working as a telecoms engineer for Cable & Wireless. Most artists had day or night jobs back then. Hon Chi Fun, the celebrated Circle Art Group co-founder, who recently passed away, worked for the Post Office – a remarkable fact, given the momentum of the group at the time. Between 1958 and 1971, members ‘showed over 40 times within and outside Hong Kong’, including at the 1961 São Paulo Biennale and the 1971 India Triennial in New Delhi, wrote Fionnuala McHugh in theThe South China Morning Post in 2016. Last year, Hon was celebrated in the Ben Brown Fine Arts booth in the Kabinett sector at Art Basel Hong Kong, and is being honored this year with ‘Story of Light’, a retrospective exhibition at Asia Society that will run from March 12 to June 9.
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