HK: “A Place Waiting to Happen”

SceneAsia interviews one of the key figures in Hong Kong’s Central Police Station museum project:

David Elliott, a British curator and Asian art specialist, is advising on the Central Police Station project. Over his 30-year career, he has directed modern art museums in Tokyo, Stockholm, Istanbul and Oxford and written more than a dozen books, including “Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art.”

“People in Hong Kong are looking for something different,” Mr. Elliott says. “I see my role as setting the whole thing up and programming it to a high international level. I think it can really break the ice.” […]

What are your impressions of Hong Kong and how the public feels about this project?

It’s a place waiting to happen — everything else is here except a public forum for contemporary culture. It’s been botched, especially in terms of visual art. People are inventing and reinventing politics all the time here. “Heritage” is one of the buzzwords. “Who are we? What is our heritage?” You have the absurd paradox of a colonial jail — a symbol of oppression and possession that the British built — now being a site of collective identity, memory and nostalgia, because everything else has been bulldozed. […]

You talk about a “sense of place” for art. Can you elaborate?

One of the big messages we have to get across is that value is not the price of something, but its aesthetic quality as art, which is far more important. If art is any good, you can’t really own it, just rent it for a while, because its influence is much larger than any one person’s desire. I believe that people have the right to access the best art of their time.

Central Police Station Curator: ‘If Art Is Any Good, You Can’t Really Own It’ (Wall Street Journal)