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Is Hong Kong the world’s new luxury art capital?

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Temples to trams, feng shui to finance and dim sum to decadent dining are some of the images that may conjure up when you picture what Hong Kong, might be like. Expect to be dazzled, exasperated and awe-inspired – but never bored, says Assif Majid.

Hong Kong’s cultural scene has been burgeoning for a couple of years. The city officially ‘came out’ in 2013, when the world’s most fêted art fair, Art Basel, which hosts exhibitions in Basel and Miami, decided to hold an annual fair in Hong Kong, and 2015 marks the third edition in the city (March 15-17).

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The official heart of Art Basel is the Convention and Exhibition Centre on the Wan Chai waterfront, a vast hangar-style building filled with 233 galleries from 37 territories, with more than 50 percent of the galleries with exhibition spaces in Asia. This year more than 10 percent of galleries have exhibition spaces in Hong Kong a reflection of the strengthening of the art scene locally. It can be a dazzling and somewhat overwhelming experience. Six show sectors offer a diverse collection of artworks, including pieces by established artists, newly emerging artists and curated projects. There are also plenty of satellite events happening all over the city.

Art Basel 2014 in Hong Kong

Last year we visited the Hanart Gallery at the Pedder Building – who were showing Gu Wenda at Art Basel HK. Edouard Malingue Gallery is where Yuan Yuan’s works were being exhibited. Grotto Fine Arts specialises in HK art only and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery is where we met Chinese artist Huang Rui, a founding member of the Chinese avant-garde art group the ‘Stars,’ which included artists Wang Keping, Ai Weiwei, Ma Desheng and Li Shuang.

Photo by Jessica Hromas/Art Basel 2015

This year the ‘discoveries’ sector of the festival will present a strong showcase of emerging artists from around the world with solo- and two-person exhibitions presented by 20 galleries. Six of the 20 galleries are be new to the show. Highlights include the presentation of a photography-based installation by Hong Kong artist Trevor Yeung at Blindspot Gallery; a theatrical-narrative project by Hong Kong artist Samson Young by am space and a sound installation by Indonesian artist Bagus Pandega presented by ROH Projects.

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Unmissable events this year include the K11 Art Foundation and Palais de Tokyo collaboration: Inside China – Artists Talk, ‘Twenty’: Xu Zhen’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong and the first edition of Art Central, a new fair launched by the founders of Art HK. The satellite fair will coincide with Art Basel in Hong Kong. Also renowned international Chinese artist Cao Fei will present ‘same old, brand new’, which references video games, primarily from the 1980s, which have become an integral part of popular and youth culture in Hong Kong, but also across the world. By combining symbols and logos with moving images derived from well-known computer games including Pac-Man. Each night during the festival, the installation will be shown across the entire façade of Hong Kong’s iconic International Commerce Centre (tallest skyscraper) on the Kowloon harbour front.

Photo by Jessica Hromas/Art Basel 2015

Under construction and due for completion in 2018, will be the world’s biggest arts venue being built on reclaimed land on the Kowloon waterfront, so colossal it’s created a whole new neighbourhood, the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD). Costing an astounding £1.8 billion, WKCD will house an opera house, galleries, an arts pavilion, an outdoor stage and the contemporary M+ Museum, which will feature space-age exteriors for 20th-and 21st-century design and architecture, all contained in what resembles a skyscraper lying on its side, by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.

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Where to sleep in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a plethora of hotels for design conscious travellers. We stayed at the swish W Hotel in Kowloon – alongside the Standard New York; the W Hong Kong is a one of the most stylish hotels we have stayed in to-date.

Designed by Yasimuchi Morita of Japan’s Glamorous who has teamed up with Nic Graham of g+a in Australia to design this 393-room hotel, which is peppered with an eclectic collection of art. Located right above Kowloon Metro station, the luxury hotel is energetic and vibrant and all 393 rooms boast gob smacking views of Hong Kong’s twinkling skyline.

The luxury Hong Kong hotel boasts its own ‘W insider’ aka Charlie – identified as ‘the ultimate black book of Hong Kong’ by Channel News Asia’s Luxe Asia TV series – Charlie is one of the city’s ‘It’ girls and is the go to person for all things hipster chic including the best places to eat, drink, get hedonistic – and shop during your time in Hong Kong! If in doubt, ask Charlie.

This hip Hong Kong hotel also provides you with a complimentary smartphone that comes loaded with all the latest apps such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – so you’ll have no excuses not to spam your timelines about your stay in Hong Kong.

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Where to shop in Hong Kong

There’s a real buzz on the streets of this vibrant city. When we were in town we joined a cool crowd of design aficionados taking selfies at the newly open PMQ, a creative art and design hub. The 1950s building has been used as the location for various Chinese horror films and was a former Police Married Quarters. PMQ is the place to shop for hip Hong Kong labels and unique gifts. You can also find Jason Atherton’s latest Aberdeen Street Social restaurant here.

If you want to flex the card Harbour City is a massive complex full of designer boutiques. Also the IFC Mall is the biggest and possibly the best. There are more than 200 stores and eateries to get lost in.

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Where to dine in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is awash with places to eat from buzzing street food stalls to Michelin-star and fine dining outlets. Situated on the historic Duddell Street, in the heart of Hong Kong’s Central district, Duddell’s is a beautiful two-floored eatery connected by a dramatic inner staircase, designed by the celebrated Ilse Crawford. As Hong Kong’s first gallery come restaurant serving local Cantonese cuisine, entering Duddell’s is like being welcomed into the eclectic home of a seasoned art collector, one that happens to have a two Michelin-star restaurant and a chic salon and garden terrace.

Another great option is Sevva Restaurant. The food is fresh, simple and honest, with an emphasis on the finest produce: either from bustling local markets or specialties flown-in from around the world. The stylish restaurant is located on the 25th floor of Prince’s Building in Central – the outdoor terrace boasts jaw-dropping views of Hong Kong’s central district.

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Where to drink

Hong Kong is full of ubiquitous ‘sky bars’ that sit atop skyscrapers, providing breathtaking views. But if you want something a little different and local try Fu Lu Shou HK Rooftop Bar – this secret bar is a great place to enjoy Asian-inspired cocktails. The bar’s secret door code changes weekly, so call ahead to gain entry. Another bar we visited was Ping Pong 129 Gintonería in the gentrified Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood, this former ping pong hall is possibly the best tapas bar this side of Madrid. Here you’ll find stylish sipsmiths and cocktail causalities hanging out in cool leather jackets and skinny jeans. The buzzing Spanish gin bar boasts high ceilings, retro Hong Kong windows and a red neon Chinese sign which reads ‘train your body’.

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Hong Kong Weather

Always check Hong Kong’s capricious weather beforehand (hko.gov.hk), we say this because we got stuck on Hong Kong Island for a few hours due to a tropical storm and black rain – we missed the tropical cyclone warning!

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How to get there

Adelto flew ‘upper class’ as a guest of Virgin Atlantic who fly daily direct to Hong Kong from Heathrow in about 11 hours. The brand’s London Heathrow Clubhouse is an oasis of hipster cool, and as soon as we set foot in the ‘invitation only’ lift we knew we had arrived somewhere transcendent.

This exclusive lounge is full to the brim with activities. We booked ourselves in for a quick consultation and trim at the salon – there’s also a spa, hot tub (yes, you read that right!), Grey Goose vodka lounge and much more. Arrive awesome and in style.

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Best Hong Kong website 

The Hong Kong Tourism Board’s website lists the city’s local festivals: discoverhongkong.com

In excess of 65,000 visitors are expected for Art Basel, and various international clients, dealers and buyers descending on the city, expectations are high – but what does it mean for Hong Kong as a new cultural hub? Join in the conversation on Twitter, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Art Basel is open to the public from 15-17 March, artbasel.com

Images courtesy of Art Basel, HKTB, Virgin Atlantic, Duddell’s, Jonathan Maloney Photography and W Hong Kong

About

Assif is a luxury travel and design aficionado currently working as a BBC content producer. He holds an MA in journalism from the University of Leeds. He is partial to tea and cake - Yorkshire Tea Gold Blend please. His favourite trips include island hopping in the Seychelles, a mountain escape in Kashmir and getting lost in Hong Kong.

Assif is the current editor of Adelto Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @journolista.

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March 14, 2015 | Asia China Hong Kong Travel Travel Reviews | View comments

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