An extended talk about the FCC’s King of Kowloon Wall Exhibition and Hong Kong’s art scene with local curators
September’s FCC Wall Exhibition features the work of Tsang Tsou Choi, the legendary King of Kowloon who was an iconic figure in Hong Kong’s art world and unexpectedly passed away in 2007. His use of traditional (and not-so-traditional) Chinese characters became a common sight around the city, telling stories across walls, light posts, mailboxes, sidewalks, and other parts of public spaces.
Before his death, Willie Chung took it upon himself to learn more about the King of Kowloon and preserve his works as a part of his life’s mission, becoming the King’s caretaker for many years — right up until the last week before he passed away.
After the King passed away in 2007, Hong Kong’s art world pleaded with the local government to not wash away or paint over his works, insisting that his graffiti was a cultural icon. Over time, Chung accumulated the largest King of Kowloon collection in the world and has become committed to telling the King’s story.
Sitting down with FCC Journalist Board Member Joe Pan at a Club Lunch on September 11th, Chung talked about his journey as an artist trying to make sense of the King’s seemingly odd behaviour and artistic style.
“Many of us, including myself, didn’t fully appreciate or understand his actions and his artworks in the past,” Chung said. “I am quite sure, even up to this moment right now, a lot of people still don’t understand what he was writing.”
Through his relationship with the King of Kowloon, Chung was able to author five books about the legendary artist and has also created workshops and exhibitions dedicated to educating others, especially the younger generation.
“They asked me why I think I need to create a lot of workshops, why it’s so important. Because, I would like to tell the whole story of what I know about Uncle Choi to the new generation,” he said.
In order to broaden the scope of the talk, Chung’s colleague Hilary Wong also joined the panel to share her views on Hong Kong’s art scene and the evolving role of curators. To her, curators have an important role in promoting the work of growing artists and after the year 2000, they have shifted their focus from fine art to contemporary art.
In line with local curators’ modern preference for contemporary art, Wong also explained how the city can increase its prominence as a global art hub. She believes that highlighting local artists is key.
“We have more focus on local artists. Every place in the world, when the art fairs come in, local artists will be recognized,” Wong said.
She also highlighted future projects that include experimental learning, the artistic work of students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), digital art, and even the works of Leonardo Da Vinci. She also mentioned new programs for children that break away from the traditional classroom setting for a more involved learning experience.
“This center will be a new approach for learning, entertainment learning,” she said. “So we hope to teach the students through playing, not very traditional learning centers. It’s a museum-like setting.”
Circling back to the King of Kowloon, moderator Joe Pan was curious about where exactly one could find the famed graffiti in Hong Kong. Both Chung and Wong said a list would be coming out soon, but not just yet.
“We can tell you that there are more than thirty works out in the public, but they’re hiding!” Wong said.
Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel below: