Thursday, 26 November 2015

Hong Kong Not Quite Cultural Sophisticated

One of 31 statues by Antony Gormley placed around the Central area
Hong Kong is becoming a more cultural city in the last few years, with ArtHK that has evolved into Art Basel. That on top of the art auctions we have twice a year from Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonham's as well as several other Chinese auctioneers and one would think the city was fast becoming the cultural leader in Asia.

Not quite.

British sculptor Antony Gormley's Naked Man sculptures have been erected around the city and they've caused a lot of confusion since they were unveiled last week.

The statues evoke a sense of watching and being watched
The life-size sculptures made of fibreglass are placed on the top of buildings, such as City Hall lower block, Hip Shing Hong Centre, New World Tower II, St George's Building and Queensway Government Offices.

However, in the first few days, those who actually noticed the sculptures thought they were real people standing on the edge of these buildings and called police, concerned they were potential suicide jumpers.

There were 29 such reports in two weeks.

Of the 31 sculptures, 27 were placed on rooftops mostly in the central business district, while four others made of cast iron were placed at ground level.

One statue on Queen's Road Central was an "obstruction"
But those ones on the ground also received complaints. One standing at Queen's Road Central by Theatre Lane was determined to be an "obstruction", and was fenced off by the Highways Department staff on Tuesday.

Three railings were made into a triangle around the sculpture, but after a picture of this was posted online, there were criticisms of how the government handled the situation, but the authorities held their ground.

"Our contractor temporarily fenced off the concerned area for inspection. The inspection confirmed that the concerned footpath was in proper condition and the area was immediately reopened," said a spokesperson from the Highways Department.

Why did the Highways Department do this? Why didn't they explain to the complainant that it's a work of art for Hong Kong residents to enjoy?

For someone to call it an "obstruction" is ridiculous -- in fact Gormley wants people to be more aware of their surroundings, as it is a project that explores the concept of watching and being watched.

27 of the 31 statues are placed on rooftops in Central
We can only imagine someone may have bumped into the statue while staring at their smartphone, and instead of being pleasantly surprised by the public art, was annoyed and called the Highways Department in a bid to remove the offending "obstruction"...

What does this say about how culturally sophisticated we are?


  1. Even if this is not the artist's intent, seems to me as though people are responding to the art. If they weren't responding at all, I think the artist should be worried. What it says? That HKers are stressed. And this art clearly stressed these people even more.

    1. HI Diana! That's an interesting point I didn't think of before! By the same token, many people are not aware these are art pieces, so their first reaction is... is that person going to jump?!

  2. I can see why someone called the police after seeing what looks like a silhouetted man on top of a building.

    But the Highways Department? Surely their hilarious little fencing is more of an obstruction than the statue?