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Hong Kong, Hong Kong


Hi Art, January, 2008


    “The quiet mountain and the beautiful harbor are filled with my laughter and hope.  Everything here is unforgettable.  This is a heaven of love… Hong Kong, Hong Kong.”  This old song, sung by Teresa Tang used to celebrate the freest and prosperous “Eastern Pearl”, Asia’s most international and cosmopolitan city—Hong Kong, and it was also the catchiest tune that commemorated a Chinese city.  Although there were also songs about Beijing, Tianjin, Taipei and Erdaohezi, I wonder who can still remember them today; even if anyone does remember, who has the nerve to sing them out loud?!  However, the two songs that Teresa Tang sang about Hong Kong, including the dance number: “The Night of Hong Kong”, are still on people’s humming and singing lips.  Hong Kong is not only a shopping paradise for the mainlanders, but also a favored destination for Westerners.      

Several days ago, the Kitty Hawk, an American Aircraft Carrier was pretty anxious for being unable to get the approval from the Chinese government to spend the Thanksgiving in Hong Kong.  The officials, including soldiers and captains, Department of Defense and the Secretary of the States are still complaining about it.  Although some may say that Hong Kong is a cultural desert, such claim can only come from a narrow perspective.  Firstly, not only are there regional headquarters opened by first class enterprises, international firms, banks and stock companies in Hong Kong, there are also Asia head offices from well respected international media such as The Associated Press, the Reuters, CNN, Time magazine, Newsweek and hundreds and thousands of global newspaper and magazines.  During the handover in 97, the British rashly relocated the Reuters to Singapore, but it only took them a year to bring the major production team back to Hong Kong.  Secondly, from the aspect of movies, Hong Kong is the only place that can compare with Hollywood cinema in terms of the popularity, as audience from China can easily name 20-30 Hong Kong film stars.  Meanwhile, there are more than 100 arts performances and exhibitions opening in the city each month; world class Rock bands, orchestra, classical or contemporary dance companies and theatres also rush in to perform.  Furthermore, one could almost get any books, newspaper, films and cultural information from the place without much pressure, whereas in other countries, only the approved materials can be seen. 

Hong Kong is still a sacred land for contemporary Chinese art.  And the trend for contemporary Chinese art that is so heated today is in fact, encouraged by the effort of Hong Kong. 

Apart from the two well-known auction houses: Sotheby’s and Christie’s, numerous big and small galleries can be found in the city.  Among the bunch, Hanart TZ Gallery (opened in 1983), Plum Blossoms Gallery (opened in 1987) and Schoeni Gallery (opened in 1992) are the most famous, also known as the 3 major galleries in Hong Kong.   

Schoeni Art Gallery, established by the Swiss Hotel owner—Schoeni and John Cowperthwaite, son of the former financial secretary-- Sir John James Cowperthwaite, began by selling antique and later, contemporary Chinese oil paintings.  The gallery is very well-managed, rarely owing money from artists.  Artists whom they have promoted include Wang Yidong, Li Guijun, Cao Li, Qi Zhilong, Yue minjun, Yang Shaobin, Chen Yu, Zhang Linhai, Liu Ye and so on, who also contributed the gallery with the fame of being one the most important galleries in selling contemporary Chinese oil paintings in Hong Kong.   

Plum Blossoms Gallery, established by an American-- Stephen McGuinnes, has opened branches in Singapore and New York.  They collect museum standard antique textile and contemporary Asian art while also representing outstanding ink painters such as C.C. Wang and Wu Guanzhong, and also young contemporary ink painters like Wei Dong and me at their later development.  Plum Blossoms still remains as an extraordinary international gallery that promotes Chinese ink paintings in Hong Kong and even the world. 

 Hanart TZ Gallery, established by Hong Konger-- Chang Tsong-zung, is located in Hong Kong and Taipei.  Chang is not only a successful businessman, but also an important promoter for contemporary Chinese art.  Born in Hong Kong and graduated from Roger Williams University in America, he is the founder of The International Art Critics Association (AICA) in Hong Kong and Asia Art Archive, and an advisor on Asian Art at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, who also has been selected twice by world-renowned magazine Art Review as one of the 100 influential powerful persons.  For the past twenty years, Hanart and Chang has participated in and curated “Chinese New Art: Post 1989”, Sao Paulo International Biennale and Venice Biennale, the “Power of the Word’ series of exhibitions, “Open Asia International Sculpture Exhibition” in Venice 2005, “Strange Heaven: Chinese Contemporary Photography”, and projects related to the “revival of Chinese visual and material culture”.  Artists whom the gallery represents include: Taiwanese artist: Zhu Ming; mainland artists: Zhang Xiaogang, Wang Guangyi, Chen Xiaotong, Fang Lijun, Zeng Fanzhi, Li Shan and Hong Kong artist: Luis Chan. 

Looking from a timeline, Chang was the first person to bring in foreign financial capital in art to the mainland China.  Even Ullens, the Belgian collector who now exhibitions his collections has said, “I was very much inspired in Hong Kong”.  Here, let me detour a little: the first person to bring in foreign capital in arts industry to China was Brian Wallace from the Red Gate Gallery.  Both Zhang and Wallace are my good friends.  Zhang has once bought my ink painting on behalf of his friend in 1993 and he often comes to the openings of my solo exhibition at Plum Blossoms Gallery in Hong Kong.  Also, 14 years ago, Brain Wallace has made plan with me about organizing my solo exhibition, which was finally held in 2005.  I often wonder why they had such a sharp eye and determination in such an early stage.  They are even 20 years ahead of the boosting to contemporary Chinese art and hundreds of galleries packed in 798, Cao Chang Di in China and other countries.

 When Chang and his gallery was promoting the “Chinese New Art: Post 1989”, it was the time that contemporary Chinese art needed someone to feel its pulse desperately.  Ever since after the modern art exhibition at National Art Museum of China in Beijing and the large scale of mainland artists learning and imitating from Western contemporary art that followed, Chinese art has reached to the low point where no one knew what the next step should be.  It was at this moment that Chang put his eyes to the mainland and with the help of Li Xianting, discovered groups of new art works and artists.  In 1993, he organized the “ Chinese New Art: Post 1989” at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre under the name of Hanart TZ Gallery, which made a difference from the art trend in the 80’s.  Later on, he successfully introduced contemporary Chinese art to the world. 

Until today, the media from China and the outside world still uses the term “Post 89”.  Regardless to whether it is for commercial gimmick or convenience, everybody still remember “Post 89”, a term which carries a strong Cantonese accent.  This is all derived from the contribution of Hong Kong galleries.  Although Hong Kong is such a tiny place, it really plays a crucial role in the development of contemporary Chinese art. 

During the late 80’s to early 90’s, everybody was waiting for hope and many have already left the country.  In between streets and roads were English tutorial classes, TOFEL classes, Japanese classes and also, classes that taught Cantonese.  And artists at that time were like a woman who sells DVDs under the bridge, carrying a kid in her arm today-- as soon as someone has laid an eye on her, she would come right up and ask “Brother, you want DVD?” 


Zhu Wei

Sunday, 23 December, 2007






香港 香港






香港除了有众所周知的苏富比、佳士得两大拍卖行以外,还有众多的大大小小的画廊。其中以1983年创立的汉雅轩、1987年创立的万玉堂、1992年创立的Schoeni画廊名声最为显赫,被称为香港的三大画廊。Schoeni Art Gallery由瑞士来港的酒店业经营者Schoeni和前香港财政司郭伯伟的独子小郭伯伟创立,开始卖家具古董后转经营中国当代油画,经营规范,很少欠艺术家的钱,曾经推出了王沂东、李贵君、曹力、祁志龙、岳敏君、杨少斌、陈余、张林海、刘野等,成为香港经营中国当代油画的重要画廊之一;万玉堂画廊Plum Blossoms,由美国人Stephen McGuinness创立,分别在新加坡、纽约开有分店,画廊拥有博物馆级的古董织物和亚洲当代艺术,代理有顶尖的水墨画家如C.C.Wang和吴冠中等,以及后来较为年轻的当代水墨画家我和魏东,万玉堂还是香港乃至全世界少有的以经营中国水墨画为主的跨国画廊经营者;汉雅轩画廊是由香港人张颂仁创立,其画廊分布在香港和台北。张颂仁不但是一位成功的商人,还是中国当代艺术的重要推动者。张颂仁出生在香港,毕业于美国威廉斯大学,是国际艺术批评家委员会(AICA)香港分会的创办人,还创办了亚洲艺术文献库,被选为古根海姆博物馆亚洲艺术顾问,两度入选国际著名杂志《艺术评论》最具世界影响力的100位权威人士。20年来他和汉雅轩画廊参与和策展了“后八九:中国新艺术”、“圣保罗双年展中国特展”、“威尼斯双年展”、“文字的力量”、“威尼斯国际雕塑年展”、“中国新摄影展”以及“中国视觉文化的复兴计划”。代理的画家有:台湾艺术家朱铭,大陆艺术家张晓刚、王广义、沈小彤、方力钧、曾梵志、李山,香港艺术家陈福善。