Hong Kong via Asia Art Archive’s Chantal Wong

Chantal Wong is the Head of Strategy and Special Projects at the Asia Art Archive (AAA), a nonprofit library and organization dedicated to documenting contemporary art in Asia—now at 34,000 records, all free of charge and many accessible online. From AAA’s perch on the 11th floor of a Hong Kong high rise, Wong was happy to share her personal guide to the city, leading us into Mongkok to experience the world’s highest density (340,000 people per square mile per the Guinness Book of World Records), or alternatively, a quiet day on Turtle Cove beach. In her excitement for Art Basel Hong Kong, Wong spoke of the long-term cultivation of Hong Kong’s art and cultural landscape and even pointed us toward three artworks we can see this week—both at the fair, and on Artsy.

Artsy: What’s exciting in the Hong Kong art world right now?

Chantal Wong: When the international galleries and the art fair first arrived there was a sense of skepticism about their “commitment” to Hong Kong’s art and cultural landscape, but recently there seems to be an increasing interest and trust from both ends to collaborate and contribute to its long term development. Large galleries are working with young artists from Hong Kong and the region, private collections are sincerely collaborating with artist-run spaces, and some institutions and corporations are interested in longer-term cultivation and sustainable projects. This is exciting.

Artsy: What museums or institutions should visitors make sure to get to?

CW: During the art fair, I’d recommend visiting the the Hong Kong Museum of Art’s current exhibition “The Origin of Dao: New Dimensions in Chinese Contemporary Art”. I would definitely make a trip to Hollywood Road to see Para/Site’s “A Journal of the Plague Year. Fear, ghosts, rebels. SARS, Leslie and the Hong Kong story” and AAA’s library and space on the 11th floor of Hollywood Center. If you are feeling like venturing farther, 1a Space and Burger Collection are co-presenting “I think it Rains” at Cattle Depot, an original cultural cluster in Kowloon.  

Artsy: What is the one spot you always bring an out-of-town guest?

CW: Views of the skyline are breathtaking from Sevva and for a perspective of Victoria Harbour take a walk down the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade and go up to Aqua for a drink. And then for a sense of Hong Kong on ground level, take a walk around the Ladies’ Market and Temple Street around Mongkok to experience the world’s highest density. To get away from the heaving fair, take a stroll down Hollywood Road to see antique shops, cafes, and visit Para/Site and AAA. If they are here for a few extra days, then I’d take them to Turtle Cove beach for a secluded afternoon.

Artsy: Can you choose 3-4 artworks on Artsy that you feel epitomize Hong Kong and why?

CW: It’s impossible to epitomize a city, but over the next week, in HK one can encounter:

1. The work of Seher Shah, participating in a panel on abstraction, part of “Unpacking Global”, to enquire into the different registers in which ideas of the “global” work.

2. We will also host a talk by artist/activist/curator Vivan Sundaram at AAA on Friday morning, 11 am. The work on Artsy is part of his “Re-take of Amrita” series which reworks family photographs highlighting the presence of his artist aunt Amrita Sher-Gil.

3. And a number of meetings as part of Open Platform in AAA’s booth [including Nadim Abbas].