Art and Place: Essays on Art From a Hong Kong Perspective by David Clarke

By David Clarke

The publication brings jointly a sequence of essays approximately artwork in Hong Kong written during the last ten years, with the goal of supplying a private chronicle of the Hong Kong artwork global in the course of a time of significant change.

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In Search of Art, a recent exhibition at the Arts Centre, attempted to counteract this tendency for power in the art world to become concentrated in the hands of a few by inviting all residents of Hong Kong to submit art objects that they live with for inclusion in the show. No curatorial power was exercised over the submissions people were allowed to decide for themselves what they considered 'art' to be when they chose what they would submit. Indeed, the exhibition explicitly acknowledged that people were not just contributing objects to the show but also ideas about what art can be (as exemplified by those objects and as explained by their accompanying texts).

There were many objects which had been handed down from relatives and which served as bearers of the sense of family continuity over the generations. While there were cases where the associations were purely personal ones given to the object by its owner, and not capable of being read out from it by the spectator, there were also cases where the historical associations were embedded in the object itself - for example in the case of old photographs. Where this was so, spectators were able to make links to their own maps of the past.

Such an odd prejudice against visual media is hard to explain, and is certainly not paralleled in the United Kingdom or the United 47 Arts Policy Issues States, for instance. The British Arts Council and the United States National Endowment for the Arts both support the visual arts to great effect, and I see no valid argument why Hong Kong should not similarly allocate to the visual arts a fair proportion of the total arts support budget. In learning from the experience of these two countries, Hong Kong might also wish to adopt another practice - namely that of ensuring grant evaluation panels are made up solely of professionals from the fields involved.

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