Is Hong Kong a Nightmare for Artists?

Simon Birch Photo: via Facebook
Simon Birch Photo: via Facebook


British artist Simon Birch may have lived in Hong Kong for 17 years, developing a reputation locally as one of the city’s most prominent artists. But, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Birch says the bureaucratic barriers to creating art in Hong Kong have ended his love affair with the city.

“Hong Kong sucks,” Birch told SCMP. “The government has no vision. It has become more and more rigid. I’ve been pushing very hard on a number of projects and they’ve all been met with disappointment. “One of those projects was a collaboration with Norman Foster on a temporary museum on the site of the coming M+ Museum. Birch says the government refused access to the land.

Exhibition space for large projects has also become scarce in recent years. Birch claims that there are plenty of empty buildings but that significant barriers to accessing the spaces lead to a less-than-accommodating environment for artists to work within and mean that many projects that could enliven the city’s nascent art scene are headed elsewhere.

“I wouldn’t be here if not for Hong Kong. Hong Kong made me and I’ll always for grateful for that,” he tells the paper, reflecting on recent successes like his representation and shows with Ben Brown Fine Arts and large scale project in 2012 titled Hope and Glory. “But now, the city is a nightmare. I am really at that point where my only option is to leave, and that’s quite sad,” he says.

So, he’s headed to New York, where the city has lent him over 250,000 square feet in the old post office across from Penn Station for his latest project The 14th Factory. “It would have never happened in Hong Kong,” he says.

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