Hong Kong Protest Art Saved as Authorities Dismantle Camps

The art depicts the yellow umbrella as well as Pokémon.

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Students wearing graduation gowns pose for a photo in front of Hong Kong's pro-democracy
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Students wearing graduation gowns pose for a photo in front of Hong Kong's pro-democracy "Lennon Wall." Photo: AFP.
Students wearing graduation gowns pose for a photo in front of Hong Kong's pro-democracy "Lennon Wall." Photo: AFP.
Pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP.
Pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP.
A painting at a Hong Kong protest site shows riot police using pepper spray against pro-democracy demonstrators. Photo: AFP.
A painting at a Hong Kong protest site shows riot police using pepper spray against pro-democracy demonstrators. Photo: AFP.
A Bruce Lee poster is among the pro-democracy protest art in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP.
A Bruce Lee poster is among the pro-democracy protest art in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP.
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Hong Kong protests.
Photo: @aamatller/Instagram.
Protestors outside of the Hong Kong Museum of Art over the weekend. Photo: K.Y. Cheng via SCMP
Protestors outside of the Hong Kong Museum of Art over the weekend. Photo: K.Y. Cheng via SCMP
A wood art sculpture titled Umbrella Man at the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests. Photo: Daniel Schearf, courtesy Vjesnik.
A wood art sculpture titled Umbrella Man at the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests. Photo: Daniel Schearf, courtesy Vjesnik.

As the government moved to break up Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camps this morning, protestors did their best to document and, where they could, move the artwork inspired by the movement that has proliferated over the past two months, reports Reuters. Calls for free elections and universal suffrage in the Chinese-controlled city have attracted international attention.

The artworks, which include street art, sculptures, paintings, banners, and installations, depict everything from the yellow umbrella that has come to symbolize the movement (see “Artists Design Logos for Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution“) to characters from the popular Japanese anime Pokémon.

As as the protests have dragged on, many have worried about their fates. As police prepared to clear part of the camps, the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives and Research Collective enlisted volunteers to help move about 100 pieces to storage, and to photograph countless others (see “Is Hong Kong’s Protest Art Worth Saving?“).

Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s version of Prague’s iconic John Lennon Wall (recently whitewashed itself [see “Prague’s Graffiti-Laden John Lennon Wall Whitewashed“]), an assemblage of colorful Post-it notes bearing messages of hope calling for peaceful change, is impossible to move. In anticipation of the wall’s inevitable end, the stairway that houses the ephemeral piece has been thoroughly documented.

A 1,200-Person Nominating Committee

The protests sprung up when the government ruled that candidates for the upcoming 2017 election would need to be approved by a 1,200-person “nominating committee” composed of Beijing loyalists. Many major streets have since been taken over by protest camps, with tents, first-aid stations, and areas for study and creative thought and activity.

The numbers of activists has dwindled over time, however, and the authorities have moved in, clearing out part of the main site on Hong Kong Island last week, before moving to the Mong Kok camps this morning. Twenty people were arrested as riot police cleared a 50-yard stretch on Argyle Street, a process that took much of the day and attracted thousands of demonstrators.

Some, like Miso Zhou, a Chinese artist who was present in Tiananmen Square in 1989, believe that the destruction of protest art can have a positive effect. “If [these artworks] get destroyed, they become more beautiful. They will have more stories and embrace more layers of meaning,” he told Reuters. “Contemporary art should interact with society and reality. It is more meaningful this way.”


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