With Hong Kong being one of the world’s biggest financial centres, it is no surprise that art is viewed primarily as a business. However, in the last three years artists have been using street art as a means to communicate, express and expose the growing need for art in everyday life.
Living in Sheung Wan, I pass countless street art pieces on my daily commute. After walking past them time and time again, they simply become a part of the city, its walls, its story. Wanting to share its story, I signed up for a Street Art Walking tour and spent an hour in my own neighborhood learning about the street art and artists who created the illustrations that help tell Hong Kong’s narrative.
The tour began at arguably one of the most famous and iconic street artworks by the local artist, Alex Croft. He was commissioned by Goods of Desire, which is at the junction of Hollywood Road and Graham Street. It depicts the skyline of Kowloon Walled City which was demolished in 1994. This densely populated ungoverned settlement was home to over 33,000 people, 1,000 businesses and 8,800 homes within 6.4 acres. Large, colourful, stylised and garnering historical significance, if you visit Hong Kong, a photo with this as your background is obligatory.
Walking West down Hollywood road, another large work by the artist Robert Sketcherman was commissioned by it’s canvas, Hotel Maderna. It depicts entertainers from the golden age of Hollywood, an interest of the hotel owner and the street in which is it located. Inspired by comic books, Sketcherman actually wanted to work for Marvel but instead uses his artistic abilities to enter the daily lives of locals as a street artist working in the city in which he lives.
The monochromatic work on the corner of Hollywood and Elgin Street was commissioned by the restaurants that call that corner home; La Bouffe, a French resturant, Seoul Brothers, a Korean restaurant and a locally famous Cantonese noodle stall. A french street artist was commissioned by the restaurants to create a work of art that reflects the proximity and mixture of the three different cultures.
Cleon Peterson, a former drug addict, created a work above the entrance to the French restaurant, Les Fils à Maman in a small alley off Hollywood Road. Peterson’s motifs are unmistakable. Monochromatic and violent, his figures, which he calls ‘the shadows’, represent conflict; man versus man, man versus himself and man versus society. These violent images have no geographical borders but apply to every region of the world.
In the courtyard that Les Fils à Maman faces, is the former building where Sun Yat-Sen began the democratic revolution of 1911. Several works in and around the courtyard reference Sun Yat-Sen as well as the significance of this place.
After heading through the park, turn left towards Aberdeen Street where you will find an ever-changing alley of art. If you are lucky, one of Cath Love’s Jeli Boos will be waiting for you. Curvy and connected to location in which she has been created, there are dozens of Jelly Boos fiercely fashioned on facades all over the city.
Take a left down Gough Street where you will find yourself near another famous noodle stall as well as a large work by street artist, Finn Dec. Known for his ability to create fine details with only aerosol cans, Fin Dac usually depicts women from different countries and cultures, but this work is unusual and special as it also includes a man.
Head up the stairs back towards Hollywood Road and see if you can spot a cat and a dragon. The cat known as Mr. Chat first appeared in Paris in 1997 and is by an unknown artist. His cheeky smile can be spotted in cities all over the world. The French artist, Invader, also has art work around the world and with several in and around Hong Kong. The dragon here is one of his ‘Invaders’ which are pixel-like tile creations. Other invaders have invaded the Leuvre, the ocean, high altitudes and even space! Fingers crossed these two works will still be there, as they were illegally done and often disappear overnight.
Home to an ever changing spot for commissioned street art, the top of the stairway has showcased hundreds of works over the years. This year, Shepherds Ferry has a large red, black and white work representing his iconic style and a common message in his art – peace. Shepherds Ferry is well known for his Obey clothing line and the 2008 Obama campaign poster.
Below is the tour provider if you are keen to book with them tour. Note that is costs $150 HKD and last just over an hour. If you live in Hong Kong, I would recommend doing the tour yourself with the aid of the info above. My only add-in would be to start with a Bloody Mary at the Globe prior to starting beginning your walk about and then finish with lunch as one of the local noodle stalls or Fast Gourmet. Fast Gourmet’s chicken salad does not disappoint!