In the Face of the Coronavirus Crisis, Hong Kong’s Art World Has Banded Together to Launch a New Online Platform for Art

Galleries, museums, and auction houses are hoping that ART Power HK will pave the way for a “post-virus comeback."

A mural in Design District Hong Kong. Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Hong Kong’s beleaguered art community is pulling together to show the world that it remains a creative hot spot despite the coronavirus emergency.  

As efforts to contain the virus have put a damper on public gatherings including art exhibitions, auctions, and fairs, cultural institutions in the city have joined forces to launch an online platform to show the resilience of its art scene. The public health emergency comes on top of months of pro-democracy protests and clashes with the police. 

The new community-run platform, ART Power HK, offers the city’s cultural organizations an alternative way to show art. Launched on March 4, the platform already includes 60 of the city’s galleries, museums, and auction houses. Art world players are hoping that the initiative, which has been launched during Hong Kong’s usually buzzing Art Month, will give new life to the city that even before the virus hit was being disrupted by dedicated pro-democracy protesters. Gallery openings, auctions, and Art Basel Hong Kong have been postponed due to the epidemic. 

The platform will feature online viewing rooms for galleries, recorded and live-streamed exhibition walkthroughs, interviews with Hong Kong-based artists and collectors, studio visits, and online talks. A spokesperson for the campaign tells Artnet News that the initiative hopes to harness the resources that were already earmarked for art, culture and design projects in March.  

A campaign representative explains that the idea was born in February when a working group of partners came together to provide a “creative solution to the current challenges while driving positive energy and momentum for Hong Kong’s vibrant, strong, and prosperous art scene and the community around it.

Organizers of the campaign have been reaching out to partners directly as well as launching an online call that extends to cultural centers, universities, and media outlets. Museums including M+, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and Liang Yi Museum have already come on board. 

The desire to reassert and re-energise Hong Kong’s vibrant arts sector in preparation for a post-virus comeback has been the driving energy behind this initiative,” the director of M+, Suhanya Raffel, tells Artnet News. She says that the community-based campaign hopes to focus Hong Kong and international audiences back on the great work being done in the city’s art scene. 

A man wearing a face mask in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images.

A man wearing a face mask in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images.

The initiative follows on from Art Basel’s decision to launch an online viewing room for dealers due to show at its Hong Kong fair. But while Basel’s app is only open to participating galleries and will last the duration of the now-canceled fair, ART Power HK is a more long-term initiative open to all of the city’s cultural players.

Father and son gallerists Arthur and Dominique de Villepin are planning to go ahead with the launch of their new gallery in Hong Kong as planned on March 20. While they expect to draw a small local audience in person to Villepin Gallery, they hope that the online initiative can extend the reach of their first exhibition, which is a solo show of Zao Wou-ki, to international audiences. Arthur Villepin tell Artnet News that the initiative “goes beyond commercial motivations.”

While the campaign was initiated in response to the cancellation of major events in Hong Kong, Art Power HK creates new opportunities to nurture more intimate and lasting relationships with people,” the French gallerist says.

The platform is the idea of an all-female working group, which included Levina Li-Cadman of Art Partners; Alexandra Seno of the Asia Art Archive; Katie de Tilly of 10 Chancery Lane Gallery; Catherine Kwai of Kwai Fung Hin;  Elaine Kwok and Georgina Hilton, of Christie’s; Kiri Sinclair and Rosanna Herries of Sinclair Arts, and S. Alice Mong of the nonprofit Asia Society Hong Kong Center, which is is hosting the platform.

Auction houses including Bonhams, Christie’s, and Phillips are on board. Jonathan Crockett, Phillips Asia’s deputy chairman says that the platform will “encourage the city’s art market to strengthen and think creatively about its digital initiatives, and engage with a broader international audience.”

Crockett says that the platform is a great tool for the city’s art organizations to unite and continue to engage with their audiences during these “challenging times.”

Whilst there is no substitute for experiencing art in person, we hope this initiative can help to fill the cultural vacuum and demonstrate that we remain active and connected with the art community,” Crockett says.

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