Tag Archives: art

Creative Tourism- can Wanchai culture be manufactured? A letter to District Councillor Clarisse Yeung

Dear Clarisse,

I read this article in the SCMP with great intrigue. The Tourism commission wants to promote Wan Chai as a creative community by installing instagram-able art walls.

Ignore the directional landmarks indicated, it’s incorrect!

Thank you Tourism Commission. I do like the idea of having beautiful walls to look at. I’ve admired the art work on the sidewalk of Stone Nullah Lane, the mural that suddenly appeared beside Tang Shiu Kin Hospital and the flowers that now decorate the overhead bridge to immigration tower from the mtr does make the walk seem less concrete and more relaxing (you can spot the animals in the changing landscape).

Images of flowers replace on bare concrete

But is that really it?

In the article our Wanchai District Councillor Clarissa Yeung opined that the walls may go unnoticed by the residents and some residents don’t even like the art they see (despite the specific local cultural significance attributed to the motif). Can you please tell us what alternative proposals you have suggested to the Tourism Commission? Anything utilitarian? Residents want what they can use… for example well maintained, covered walkways and pavements (to protect us from being poked by umbrellas and having to maneuver around trees or potholes), smoke free zones so we don’t have to keep waving as we walk, barrier free access to all buildings (and bigger lifts or ramps for the existing public infrastructure), lower streetside pollution.

How about these suggestions Clarisse? You can say you heard it from a Wan Chai resident.

1) Pedestrian Car-free Day on Sundays on Johnston and Lockhart Road. To allow us residents to properly admire the art and enjoy the neighbourhood. If the authorities doubt how useful pedestrianized areas are, please look at the crowd on Lee Tung Avenue admiring the art there. Open up the streets for everyone to come to Wan Chai to enjoy. This would allow residents from all walks of life to meet and build connections. Trams can still operate and bring a bike or scooter? (Mostly, kids have scooters). A Sunday morning once a month from 6-11am would be very well received, other top world cities have done this.

2) How about Pop-up playgrounds? If you want the tourists and locals to bring families into the city to spend and stay, this would be an awesome project for the district. Instead of exhibits that cannot be touched (again, see Lee Tung Avenue which rarely allows anyone to touch anything…yawn *boring*…or high class Art Basel), how about getting an experiential artist who can design an installation and play spaces that will bring real lasting and fun memories to the next generation. Who brings the next generation? Well, this generation and very often, the one before. You’d be getting 3 generations which would be much more meaningful than the current exhibits. There’ll be a ton of social media sharing.

3) Force landlords who have commercial property sitting empty for more than 3 months to rent it to a cha chaan teng or convert into an indoor playroom. Ok, I admit this is a huge challenge but looking at empty “for rent” spaces while landlords wait for asset inflation creates just as much of a visual and featureless hole as art installations decorate one. (This would be a follow-on of the residential vacancy tax). The property next to the temple on Queens Road East facing Tai Wong East Street has been empty for almost a year and what a waste of space. There are many more to be seen as you walk down the street.

Wan Chai has a dearth of facilities for young children or moms and grandmas to get together. (Please do not suggest that the sitting out areas are appropriate or sufficient because they are not. Some are by busy polluted streets, others have benches at linear intervals that do not promote conversation and almost none are good in hot humid rainy weather).

The Stone Nullah art installation should remind the authorities to preserve more al fresco style casual restaurants or eateries. I’ve heard that St Francis Street is losing its only cha chaan teng very soon due to redevelopment. Locals and regular visitors to this 60-year old establishment will feel its loss, both for its nostalgic link to the past and its current popular menu. The red light district and its supporting establishments have their own means of advertising, public money need not go towards promoting it further.

Please share any other ideas you have with me in the comments section.

P.s. I’ve had to give advice and directions to tourists with families asking for the nearest playground and family friendly eating cafes. If you could get the Tourism Commission to put these into that fancy app, that may make it a lot more useful.

With reference to: Why Wan Chai is unlike any other place in Hong Kong – and it’s not just because of its sleazy red light district

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3006972/why-wan-chai-unlike-any-other-place-hong-kong-and-its-not

Demolition attempt at art

This building has been vacated and will be torn down soon. What are the developers doing in the meantime? (Hint, look at the lit up windows). It would be cool if they could sponsor my favourite small theatre company from the UK to hold a performance here before tearing it down.

And, invite all the residents of Wan Chai and beyond to commemorate the loss of a yet another architectural icon in a truly special manner. By remembering it through an experience and a story.

Urban Canvas and School Art Exhibit at Comics Home Base 動漫基地

At the Comics Home Base 動漫基地 on Mallory Street, Urban Canvas has put up a booth along side an exhibition of artworks by children and teenagers from different school districts. The resulting art is very interesting and provides an insight into what local kids are into and how they view their city. 

The opening installation is a large wall of graffiti with a quote from world famous graffiti artist Banksy. 

“Graffiti is an honest way to express yourself as an artist. It doesn’t cost much to create, you don’t need special knowledge to appreciate and you don’t have to pay to see it!”


Nice one. Take a look at the more elegant graffiti around Wanchai. (It’s my personal collection, let me know if there are any nice ones I’ve missed).

There’s one gallery space dedicated to Cantonese opera rod puppets. I’ve personally always found these to be somewhat freakish to look at but suppose they are essential to storytelling. Move over Jim Henson. 

Is this a demon? Evil monkey? Sinister robot?
A Buddhist kung fu master with the Goddess of Mercy
Taoist priest

In another gallery, students used cardboard to shape life sized portraits using a lettering technique. I thought it showed the textures and reliefs beautifully. So simple yet it required careful measurements and cutting skills to get the shapes right. A great statement of versatility in an everyday packing material.


The next gallery featured clay work. Students were given head models on which to depict a theme or storyline. None of these had titles so I’m making up my own.

Harlequin or Alice in Wonderland?
Global warming. The last island for the next generation.
Chinese opera & Canteen food frustration

There are many more of these busts, some more twisted than these. I highly recommend you check them out. 

The final student artwork is of lampshades. Each red lampshade (typically used in the markets), has a painted interior reflecting some aspect of Hong Kong. I really liked this one showcasing the typical constituents of a meal at a cha chaan teng (茶餐厅,local coffee shop). 

Lampshade – HK 茶餐厅 food theme
Various lampshades

If you’re planning to be in Wanchai and would like to check it out, here are the exhibits and opening hours. 

The Urban Canvas exhibit is a small panelled display with photos of the collaborators. There’s a short clip with the artists talking and explaining their conceptualisation of the project. There’s also a booth up with two staff to promote their app. I had already downloaded it earlier in the week but they can guide you if you need some help with that. If you show them that you’ve got the app, you get a free roll of tape. There are three to choose from, each with a unique design of an old Hong Kong profession or image. If you “like” their FB page, you get a set of 4 postcards to decorate your own stall shutters. Very thoughtful and creative.

The Urban Canvas project promoted collaboration between the city’s young artists with old shops plying their trade around Wan Chai or Central. The artist gets to decorate the shutters of the shop with a graffiti style spray. The image reflects the shop’s trade, at least stylistically. It’s fun and it helps shop’s stand out when they are shut. Of course this means that you’ll need to go after office hours if you want to see it for yourself. After hours could be the best time of day to be on the streets anyway.  

Alternatively download the Urban Canvas app and see them all on your screen. 

Urban Canvas app
Urban Canvas Wan Chai Tours