May 15 2020

New Galleries Open in Hong Kong Amid Pandemic and Political Unrest

by Charmaine Kong, Lauren Long
Left to right: interiors of three new galleries that opened in Hong Kong this year: Gallery HZ, Villepin Gallery, and Flowers Gallery. All images courtesy the galleries.
Left to right: interiors of three new galleries that opened in Hong Kong this year: Gallery HZ, Villepin Gallery, and Flowers Gallery. All images courtesy the galleries.

Three galleries, namely Gallery HZFlowers Gallery, and Villepin Gallery, have set up new spaces in Hong Kong this year, braving economic conditions that have been less than optimal since the city’s ongoing political unrest was first sparked in mid-2019, and that are now exacerbated by Covid-19. The Hong Kong SAR’s economy contracted by 2.9 percent in the last quarter of 2019 and is expected to shrink by between 4 and 7 percent in 2020.

Despite the downturn, galleries carried on with their plans to open in Hong Kong. In March, the one-year-old Gallery HZ, which focuses on contemporary art, launched its new space on Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan, a neighborhood of antique dealerships and small boutiques west of the Central business district. The gallery concurrently opened its House Studio at Soho House Hong Kong, a private club and newly constructed hotel further west in Sheung Wan. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition at its Hollywood Road space, ALIGNMENT,” featured circular illustrations by Hong Kong-based Canadian artist Peter Yuill. The presentation was originally planned for the gallery’s booth at Art Central Hong Kong in March, which was canceled due to Covid-19. Speaking to AAP about how else they have adapted as a new venture in this socioeconomic climate, gallery director Fiona Ho and associate gallery director Liza Zhou explained: “Although we only managed to do one private event for our inaugural exhibition this March due to the pandemic situation, we are working hard on our online content building and arranging private viewings at the gallery.” Ho and Zhou are currently finalizing their next show, featuring Hong Kong artist Ghost Mountain Field.  

Further east on Hollywood Road in Central is Villepin, a 3,000-square-feet gallery housed in a three-story building. The gallery is co-founded by former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin and his son Arthur. The space, styled with timber floors and a central staircase also opened in March with the exhibition “Friendship and Reconciliation,” featuring abstractions by the late Chinese-French painter Zao Wou-Ki, who was a personal friend of the family. Arthur de Villepin explained to AAP what drove him and his father to set up the gallery: “We as a family are collectors and want to share the passion, not just to sell the art but to offer curated exhibitions.” He added that they had been looking for a space “that allows people to feel like they can connect with the artists.” They settled on the three-story premise because it “allows us to create this atmosphere with the different floors.” 

On May 21, Flowers Gallery (London / New York)—named after founder Angela Flowers—is set to open its first Asian branch on Sheung Wan’s Tung Street, coinciding with the gallery’s 50th anniversary. The gallery’s inaugural Hong Kong exhibition, “Spotlight on Michael Wolf,” will display works by the late German photographer, focused on the residential and industrial buildings of Hong Kong, where Wolf had lived and worked since 1994 until his passing last year. Hong Kong director Jonny Davies told AAP that the gallery has decided to expand into the city as it remains “the pivotal trade hub for galleries and auction houses in the region.” He added that although “the political situation and health pandemic have undoubtedly put up challenges . . . it is also fortuitous the gallery can be open during this challenging time where much of the world remains closed.” The gallery chose Wolf for its first show because the photographer documented the “distinctive characteristics and resourceful nature of people who live in this city . . . an important message and story to tell during this unprecedented time of change,” according to Davies. 

Charmaine Kong is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific; Lauren Long is news and web editor.

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CHRISTIE"S ACAW Massimo de Carlo Artspace David Zwirner