Culture & Leisure

Young artists painting their paths

Can art and business go hand in hand?

by Jianne Soriano

Hong Kong has witnessed a boom in the art industry in recent years, thanks to international fairs like Art Basel, Art Central, and the development of the West Kowloon Culture district, while this may provides opportunities for business.

Young artists are not benefiting, says University of Hong Kong student, Elaine Chiu. She has 25 exhibitions under her belt. "[The Hong Kong art industry] is very international and very rarely would Hong Kong organise its own art fairs. I'm not sure if this is a good trend for local artists as we have to appeal to the international market to be successful."

Elaine Chiu , turns her dorm into her own art studio
Elaine Chiu , turns her dorm into her own art studio

Just this year, Chiu has had her artworks exhibited in France, Italy and Bulgaria. But Chiu believes  that  Hong Kong's emphasis on commercialising art is a blow to local artists.

Compared with her experience in the UK where she sees art as "more public", the 20-year-old feels that Hong Kong's art atmosphere "isn't as strong." She pointed out that it is difficult to make her artworks seen in the local community because of the lack of funding, opportunities and connections.

"Without a gallery representation, you cannot get into the art scene here in Hong Kong. It's always about money, relationship and connections," she added.

Preconceived beliefs that ‘art can't feed you' has been one of the reasons why the art scene in Hong Kong is underdeveloped, according to Nicky Chan, the founder of tgt Gallery.

Nicky Chan, the founder of tgt gallery
Nicky Chan, the founder of tgt gallery

"When we were young, teachers always said ‘Art is a good way to express your emotion'. Yet what they were really implying was ‘Don't do art when you grow up', he said.

Chan's tgt gallery aims to provide an interactive platform for young local artists to share their creativity and talent. The gallery promotes local arts by having a solo artist exhibition every month, and collaborates with companies (how?) instead of commercialising art.

The emerging art market benefits the business and finance sector, because there are more opportunities for events management and establishment of new art venues like PMQ, Para Site Art Space and the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, says the Chairman and CEO of Hong Kong-listed Pico Far East Holdings Lawrence Chia.

All of these have made Hong Kong the world's third largest art market.

"For a profit-driven commercial city like Hong Kong, art is valuable because it can bring money," he said.

Rainbow Tse, a young local artist who also has various exhibitions held both in the city and overseas, believes that there are two sides of the art scene and one cannot function without the other.

"Without the business aspect, it would be difficult for artists to have a career with it as opposed to a side job or a hobby. But when there is too large of an emphasis on business, sometimes it's easy to lose the purpose of creating art—was the art created just to be sold or was it created as a means of expression?" she wondered.

Rainbow Tse, during her watercolor workshop in Rainze Gallery
Rainbow Tse, during her watercolor workshop in Rainze Gallery

In a speech at Goucher College in Baltimore, United States, the Director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, New York (HKETONY), Anita Chan, highlighted the introduction of a new senior high school arts learning experience for senior high school students.

Chiu is delighted to hear the news, as she sees her experience in studying visual arts during secondary school as "too exam-oriented".

Meanwhile, new funding has been  allocated to the Academy for Performing Arts to provide professional training from a post-secondary diploma  up to a master's degree. Assistance also is being given to ramp up professional artists and art bodies through increased funding for nine major performing companies. All these measures are hoped to encourage local artists to pursue their dreams while still being able to make a living.

Despite a bittersweet and conflicting relationship of the art and business in Hong Kong, Chiu, Tse and Chan are still hopeful of the art development in the city. Seeing Hong Kong people appreciate art and understand the value of each piece of artwork someday is the dream that they will continue to paint in their paths.

(Edited by Choco Chan)

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) is an English news publication produced by international journalism students at Hong Kong Baptist University. It started as a printed magazine in 1969. Today, TYR is produced across different platforms.

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