Nine Macau artists stage a protest performance against land rezoning in Let’s Add 1 Meter To Taipa Pequena (Sio Tam Hill), 2011. Courtesy Art For All Society, Macau.


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The world’s largest gambling center, this Special Administrative region of China derives over 70 percent of its revenue from casinos and the gaming industry. Macau’s few commercial galleries deal in decorative tourist art, yet the recent efforts of some artist-run spaces have increased and diversified opportunities for artists at home and abroad.

Cultural activities such as contemporary art are generally funded by the goverment through Macau’s Cultural Affairs Bureau (CAB), which organizes exhibitions and events in the few existing government-run spaces, primarily the Macau Art Museum (MAM). The MAM, which concentrates on community-orientated exhibitions and traditional Chinese art, held a survey of local photographer and mixed-media artist Wang Ho Sang (11/13/10–2/20).

Private foundations also provide financial support for the arts, such as the Portuguese NGO Fundação Oriente, the independent Macau Foundation and the Henry Fok Foundation, established by the late Hong Kong tycoon.

Tap Seac Gallery (TSG), established in 2003 and run by the CAB, organized the tenth Annual Macau Art Exhibition (5/22–7/10), within the popular Macau Arts Festival. Earlier in the year, TSG featured an interactive media installation and photographs by Taiwanese artist Wu Dar-kuen (12/12/10–2/13).

Established in 2007, the nonprofit Art For All Society (AFA), led by artist-curator James Chu, is the most dynamic local art organization. With a space in Macau as well as Beijing’s 798 art district, it organizes residencies, talk events and six exhibitions annually in each location. At AFA Macau, Carol Kwok held her solo photography show, “Immortality” (4/1–5/15); in Beijing, Macau artist José Drummond, João Vasco Paiva, and Alice Kok curated the second Video Art For All – International Video Festival (12/2–31).

Other nonprofit spaces include the Ox Warehouse, which held the fifth edition of the Macau International Performance Art Festival (3/11–12).

Founded in 2009 by the local Catholic Jesuits’ Association, Art Base 1 maintains exhibition spaces, primarily for traditional media, and 14 studios for resident artists.

Notably, local artists staged a creative protest when developers attempted to rezone prime Macau land for high-rise construction. Referencing a famous 1995 performance by Zhang Huan and others, To Add One Meter To an Anonymous Mountain, nine artists reenacted the performance in Let’s Add 1 Meter To Taipa Pequena (Sio Tam Hill) and posted the photograph on Facebook, attracting 1200 “likes” in support before the page was forcibly shut down.

Overseas, Macau’s third participation at the Venice Biennale, organized by the MAM, was curated by local performance artist Ng Fong Chao with the theme “Mobility & Memory” (6/4–11/27). It included Edgar Martins’ photographs, a video by Alice Kok and an installation by James Chu, and the duo João Magalhães and Mafalda Botelho.

Looking ahead, the Macau government has announced its intention to turn the iconic Ruins of St. Paul’s area into a “cultural and creative industries” district. Having signed agreements to cooperate with Beijing and the European Union in October for cooperation in cultural development, it remains to be seen whether the SAR’s chips will be placed on the “creative” or “industrial” side of this equation.