With up to 25,000 people per square mile, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated urban centres in the world. Despite the issues with real estate, Hong Kong has been procedurally and consistently sporting an active arts scene, one whose burgeoning growth is seen across different genres. As mentioned by academic Kam Louie, who described Hong Kong as a “translation space where Chinese-ness was interpreted for ‘Westerners’ and Western-ness translated for Chinese” in his book Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image, cultural relatability has garnered the arts scene global recognition. Though relevance proves to be a challenge.
American film theorist David Borwell has observed in the first edition of his book Planet Hong Kong in 2000, that “Since the 1970s it has been arguably the world’s most energetic, imaginative popular cinema.” Dominating largely in the fact that other Asian countries could not afford to import American films, through the golden years, names like John Woo, Chow Yun-fat, and Jackie Chan had gained worldwide renown.
However, in the 2nd edition published in August 2010, Borwell describes the decline from Hong Kong’s golden cinema years in his blog, citing issues such as internet piracy, wider proliferation and access to Hollywood movies, and having a good deal of local movies slowly being influenced creatively, and financially by China. With only moderately budgeted films retaining the local flavour.
|Statistics about the storied history of Hong Kong cinema|
With the decline the Hong Kong film industry faces, along with the dilution of artistic control, the evolution of Hong Kong’s art and cultural export is evolving, compounded by fears and uncertainties, in a bid for differentiation and reinvention.
Not all is lost in the pursuit of maintaining Hong Kong’s cultural identity. With projected completion of the M+ museum for visual culture in 2019, Hong Kong looks on track to have hands on the steering wheel, to guide the country towards enriching, and invigorating the arts scene. The delays in construction resulting in Lars Nittve, the executive director stepping down from his post in early 2016 to the divisive public reactions to the design from “sublime” to “bland” demonstrate the pride and sense of ownership the Hong Kong people have towards their arts and culture.
Contrasting the lost of relevance in Hong Kong cinema, we see a different story for the district of Wong Chuk Hang. With initial plans for setting up the site to be a manufacturing hub, hoping to replicate the success of Kwun Tong and Hong Hom, the plans failed due to poor infrastructure, and the district was saved through reinvention. Wong Chuk Hang has moved from being “the most backward district of Hong Kong Island,” according Lau Chi-pang, an associate professor of history at Lingnan University, who published a book about Wong Chuk Hang, to leveraging on an industrial area aesthetic to be the district for arts and fashion known internationally, with different businesses and workspaces reinventing, and sharing their resources.
With high costs of rental, we are seeing hedge funds being squeezed out the city. Conversely, in the face of similar rent woes in Hong Kong, artists are finding the vibe, and energy that the city exudes to be well worth the cost. With a healthy number of local buyers, the arts scene in Hong Kong is very much alive.
|Wong Chuk Hang, a floundering district reinvigorated by art|
And the art movement extends beyond the local influences, with Belgium Week towards the end of 2017 bringing their arts scene Hong Kong. The groundwork involved leading to the growth and trajectory of the arts scene has paid off, from predictions and aspirations from interviews with gallerists a few years back. Now Hong Kong presides as one of three locations for the prestigious Art Basel art fair, which brings about an international audience. Art lovers, artists, and art buyers converge onto the city, turning Hong Kong into one of Asia’s most important cultural hubs.
This reinvigoration of the art wave has affected the approach that property developers are taking, where the priorities shift from maximising floor space to injecting art, and design to the space. Looking at better qualities and aesthetics, borrowing a page out of the evolution of Wong Chuk Hang, and riding the wave of prestige brought about by Art Basel, the future of the Hong Kong real estate situation lies in a spirit of collaboration.
With the government putting in measures to close the gap in rent discrepancy, property developers taking a hard look at reinventing the physical space to encompass functional living, and working, and the dogged Hong Kong spirit displayed by the people could imbue the social, and real estate issues Hong Kong faces with unified catharsis.
|The reinvention of real estate needs to boast functional livability, a distinct character, and work|