Hong Kong discovered just how much commerce art can drive during the month-long stay of Florentijn Hofman’s rubber duck. The harbor saw a huge spike in tourist traffic and spending. But the city’s merchants have not been oblivious to the value of art. Hong Kong’s malls are both fulfilling the need for art in “public” spaces and encouraging luxury appeal by adding artworks to their stores:
Sino Land also has a separate art department, and in 2009 New World Development’s Adrian Cheng Chi-kong opened K11, billing itself as the world’s first art shopping mall.
“What’s happening in Hong Kong is what has been happening in major department stores in London and New York for some time. It is a consequence of contemporary art climbing the cultural ladder,” says Lars Nittve, executive director of M+, the museum for visual culture, part of the future West Kowloon Cultural District.
The local arts scene has taken off in the past three to four years.
World-class galleries such as White Cube and Galerie Perrotin have moved in and last year Art HK morphed into Art Basel, putting Hong Kong on the world art map.
“It’s a natural thing for upmarket malls to do,” Nittve says. “I’m sure it’s driven by an increase in traffic and probably also attracting certain visitors. The target audience is the well-educated, upper-middle class.”
Hong Kong’s dearth of public space has also created a curious set-up whereby malls often fulfil that role. Planning rules say they must include open space for public use.