Interview Fairs China

My Hong Kong with Johnson Chang and Yana Peel

Two art world insiders give their tips on the best exhibitions, places to relax and why art fairs are important

Hong Kong

The director of Hanart TZ Gallery, Johnson Chang (Chang Tsong-Zung), provides an insider’s guide to the city and its art scene

1. My favourite place to relax in Hong Kong is…
There is no worse enemy for relaxing than a hot and hip joint. I go to my two favourite restaurants, which have been around for ever (in life-span terms): the China Club (Old Bank of China Building, Central) and the Luk Yu tea house (Stanley Street, Central).

2. The art world in Hong Kong is different because…
You are all here! It was very peaceful before. I propose to look at Hong Kong as the “public space” of greater China, a space for critical reflection and open discussions. As such Hong Kong has served its role since the late 19th century, with reformers (rightly and wrongly) using Hong Kong as a base. Therefore, art here has continued to exist as strategies for sane living within an exploitative capitalist society, for connections to the lost cultural-political lineage of China, for preserving regional identity under an all-encompassing nation-state.

3. The best exhibitions in Hong Kong take place at…
With honesty I cannot exclude Hanart TZ Gallery’s “Qiu Zhijie: Bird’s Eye View” [opening on 23 May] and Hanart Square’s “Jennifer Wen Ma: Forty-four Sunsets in a Day”. Osage Gallery’s Au Hoi Lam exhibition [until 30 May]: she is one of my favourite Hong Kong artists.

4. Art fairs are important because…
They bring together players who make the rest of the city believe art and art collecting are important.

5. Living here makes me feel…
Like a workhorse, always on the lookout for the next street-corner café.

6. I last cooked for…
My teenage son, who knows the full range of my cuisine, which is fried eggs and sausages and toast.

Interview by Lin Guoer

Yana Peel, the Hong Kong-based co-founder Intelligence Squared Asia and co-founder of Outset Contemporary Art Fund shares her picks

1. My favourite place to relax in Hong Kong is…
By day… dropping into Asia Art Archive, in between meetings in Sheung Wan [in northwestern Hong Kong], to meet an artist-in-residence or peruse through the latest publications. Claire Hsu and her team have amassed the most valuable public collection of primary and secondary source ­material about contemporary art in Asia. Taking tea at Spring Workshop with its founder, Mimi Brown, in Wang Chuk Hang [in the south], which rivals Chai Wan as the most creative neighbourhood in town. By night… Duddell’s [1 Duddell Street, Central], the new restaurant and arts club destined to become a second home to the city’s creative community. Weekend… paddle boarding around the beaches of Tai Long Wan and/or climbing the Dragon’s Back with friends and family.

2. The art world in Hong Kong is different because…
Everything is possible. In the absence of existing structures and preconceived notions, our creative community works together to fill the gaps for the benefit of all. It is defined by collaboration, rather than competition. 

3. The best exhibitions in Hong Kong take place at…
Para/Site Art Space (disclaimer: I am its co-chair). Hong Kong’s ­leading non-profit art space brings international voices to Hong Kong and the best of regional artists to the world. The exhibition “A Journal of the Plague Year” [until 25 May], curated by Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero, ­promises to be a highlight [of the Art Basel Hong Kong week]. The show focuses on ghosts, rebels, Sars and the suicide of Leslie Cheung [the musician and actor] in 2003. Major new works by Lee Kit, Ai Weiwei and James Hong are included.

4. Art fairs are important because…
As Andy Warhol said: “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

5. Living here makes me feel…
Inspired (albeit sometimes tired).

6. I last cooked for…
An audience of 800 at our most recent Intelligence Squared debate in Hong Kong. My idea of cooking is conceptual—throwing ideas and speakers into a pot, mixing in a dash of civilised aggression and hoping that people show up with a desire to sate their curiosity.

Interview by Gareth Harris


Yana Peel
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