At Hong Kong Mall, the Ultimate Collision of Commerce and Art
By Alex Frew McMillan
At the K11 mall, the artist Tony Ng with his piece, “The Diary of Clouds.”
Billing itself as the “world’s first art mall,” K11 opened in mid-December, with 340,000 square feet of retail space and 13 permanent installations by prominent Hong Kong artists. Though the “world’s first” tag is a bit of a stretch — many modern malls feature bits of artistic flare — K11 highlights local artists in a city that tends to be all business. The new shopping center (18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon; www.k11concepts.com) is the brainchild of Adrian Cheng, the retail specialist who also happens to be the grandson of Cheng Yu-tung, the head of New World Development, which developed the mall.
Kum Chi Keung, a Hong Konger who has made a specialty of site-specific installations, has contributed a pair of sculpture projects. Next to the Chow Tai Fook jewelry store (another part of Mr. Cheng’s empire) is “Shadow,” a flock of pixilated birds taking flight, carrying handbags in their beaks. Upstairs, there’s a matching piece, “Hands,” a red pair of wings made out of traditional bamboo bird cages, which echo the cramped quarters of many of the city’s apartments.
Much of the mall’s art tackles how Hong Kongers interact with nature. Tony Ng, an artist who normally works in the shui mo, or “water ink,” medium of Chinese painting, is behind “The Diary of Clouds”: a cloud pattern etched across 68 acrylic panes. “For me it is like a painting,” Mr. Ng said. “Clouds are a very traditional subject in Chinese painting. They give me the feeling of freedom and nature.”
The mall also features temporary shows — the first, titled “Hiking Arte,” encourages visitors to “hike” past 19 nature-inspired pieces by young Hong Kong artists scattered through the mall. (The installation runs through March 15.)
For guidance, brochures on the “K11 Kollection” are available at the information desk, and starting in March, visitors will be able to download an iPhone application that will give them information on each piece by dialing a code.
There are plans for K11 malls across China; the next is scheduled to open in Wuhan next year, and New World is also eyeing locations in a number of other cities. Mr. Ng, who also teaches art, says he has hopes for prospects on the mainland. “I have a lot of students, but their parents don’t support them,” Mr. Ng says of Hong Kong. “In China, it’s different; they want their sons or daughters to be artists.”