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Old January 18th, 2010, 05:45 PM   #701
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Tang tells of bold vision to create Asia's West End
The Standard
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The West Kowloon Cultural District will emerge from the harborfront in the image of London's West End - with a Broadway skyline - says the man ultimately responsible for its success.

Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang Ying-yen outlined his bold vision at a gathering in the United States yesterday.

He told the "Hong Kong, A Tapestry of Art and Culture" reception in New York that the government is determined to establish the city as Asia's cultural hub.

Tang said similarities between the two cities meant the West Kowloon Cultural District had exciting potential.

Hong Kong and New York never sleep, have shimmering skyscrapers, great shopping, wonderful food and a spectacular harbor, he said.

"Plans are well underway for no less than 15 arts facilities on the site, including concert halls, theaters, a contemporary arts museum, and a mega performance venue," he said.

"We will select a number of iconic architectural designs and incorporate piazzas for people to relax and enjoy the atmosphere."

Tang said the aim is to create a modern and high quality venue to "bring arts to the people and people to the arts."

"We are pressing ahead with a project to construct an express rail link that will connect to the high-speed rail network in the mainland with a terminus in West Kowloon," he said.

With almost 30 million visitors a year, the fact that the city is on the mainland's doorstep and a short hop from the thriving Pearl River Delta region, meant the project would succeed.

Tang said HK$21.6 billion on official funds had been granted for the project and the first phase is scheduled to open in 2014/2015.

He said the government is raising the profile of the arts in schools and upgrading arts management and providing training schemes and funding programs to support those with ambitions for a career in the arts.

"The government either sponsors or promotes more than 4,000 cultural and educational programs including major events each year," he said
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Old January 18th, 2010, 05:47 PM   #702
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HK airport opens new ferry terminal to meet strong cross-boundary demand
15 January 2010





HONG KONG, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) on Friday launched the SkyPier, a new cross-boundary ferry terminal, to further facilitate strong demand for cross-boundary transport between the airport and the Pearl River Delta region.

The SkyPier is an important link between the airport and the Pearl River Delta region, said Donald Tsang, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, at the opening ceremony held at the pier on Friday.

He said an international aviation hub underpins Hong Kong's efforts to enhance our competitiveness through the development of the four traditional pillar industries, in particular tourism and trade and logistics.

The new SkyPier is part of HKIA's near-term growth projects to enhance service levels and meet future demand, and the pier efficiently conveys passengers traveling between the Pearl River Delta and the world via HKIA, said Marvin Cheung Kin-tung Marvin Cheung Kin-tung, Chairman of the Airport Authority Hong Kong.

A temporary SkyPier opened in 2003 and served almost 10 million passengers.

The new 16,500-sqm permanent SkyPier is eight times the size of the temporary facility, and designed with a maximum capacity for 8 million annual passengers.

Currently, high-speed ferries make an average of 85 trips every day, shuttling around 5,000 passengers between HKIA and eight ports in the Pearl River Delta and Macao, including Zhongshan, Zhuhai Jiuzhou, Dongguan Humen, Guangzhou Nansha, Shenzhen Shekou and Shenzhen Fuyong as well as Macao's Taipa and Maritime Ferry Terminal.

Travelers using the SkyPier are not required to go through immigration and customs formalities at HKIA.

Passengers en route for overseas destinations via HKIA's SkyPier are also exempt from paying the Hong Kong Airport Departure Tax of 120 HK dollars.

The time for passengers to travel between the ferry pier and Terminal 1 is also shortened to about four minutes, half of the time previously required.

The 20,000 square meter North Satellite Concourse is also launched on Friday. Ten extra bridge-served parking stands for narrow-bodied aircraft are built to serve the rising number of narrow-bodied aircraft using the airport.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 11:00 AM   #703
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Arts show that's struggling to stay afloat With bureaucracy confounding biennale curators, artists rely on own cash and wits
17 January 2010
South China Morning Post

It was an unexpectedly warm day as Syren Johnstone stood, in shirt-sleeves and a bit of sweat on his brow, over a hole dug in the West Kowloon Reclamation site. He held a shovel in his right hand and stared down at a rusted reinforcing bar poking out of the earth.

"This is reclaimed land, but we're still making archaeological finds here," said Johnstone, who worked with two other architects, Kingsley Ng and Daniel Patzold, to create Excavation, a mock archaeological dig on the site of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. The biennale, which has attracted an eclectic range of installations and exhibits, is being held until the end of next month on a vacant part of the reclamation grounds, and covers about 73,000 square metres.

As the architects' work progressed, they found the remains of construction waste that had been mixed with the soil used to reclaim the land - a reminder, Johnstone said, that something can never come from nothing. He turned and looked at the craggy grass and gnarly trees dotting the site, and the half-dozen unused shipping containers housing some of the works. "It's becoming a bit like Christiania here," he said, referring to the infamous anarchist enclave in Copenhagen. "People are just coming and doing all sorts of interesting things."

Since it opened last month, the event has won plaudits for avoiding the academic stuffiness of many architecture showcases, first by situating itself outdoors but also by stressing public participation and the constantly evolving nature of art and architecture - concepts reflected in the theme, "Bring Your Own Biennale".

But that approach came as much from necessity as it did from curatorial vision. Pressed for time and strapped for cash, the curators had no choice but to stage a more rag-tag production than they would have otherwise. From the beginning, the biennale's curatorial team, led by the architect Marisa Yiu with partners Eric Schuldenfrei, Alan Lo and Frank Yu, had to work on a tight schedule and budget. They were awarded the curatorship in July, more than a year after the curators on the biennale's Shenzhen side had been chosen. The disarray behind Hong Kong's effort, some involved say, reflects the wider organisational problems holding back arts development in the city.

"This is something Hong Kong needs to realise if it wants to stage these kinds of events - they cannot be done in less than six months," Schuldenfrei said. "For a while we thought of calling it the Instant Biennale."

Two-thirds of their original ideas had to be scrapped because of a lack of time and money, Yiu said. With an operating budget of HK$6.8 million - HK$5 million of which came from the Home Affairs Bureau and the rest from a private donor - the curators were forced to cut corners to reduce costs. The biennale's signature pavilion, designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, was completed only because Ban offered to reduce his fee and scale down the design. Many of the biennale's other 80 exhibits and installations faced a similar fate. If each had been funded according to plan, Yiu said, there would have only been enough money to build four.

But more than money, she said, it was the lack of time that prevented the curators from securing more funding. "Pretty much the minute we got the curatorship, a lot of people like banks were really excited about this, but they couldn't commit to funding because of the time," she said. The curators gave up their HK$600,000 fee to make ends meet. "There was no way we could do this if we hadn't put that money back into the biennale," Yiu said.

Their experience contrasts sharply with Shenzhen's, which launched the biennale in 2005 and invited Hong Kong to join as a partner in 2007. Shenzhen's biennale was given a budget of more than 10 million yuan (HK$11.4 million), according to its curator, Ou Ning. Most of the funding came from eight large real estate companies that were pushed to contribute by the government, which also provided the city's largest public space, the Shenzhen Civic Centre, as a venue, as well as support for marketing, logistics and security.

The Shenzhen arm is run by a permanent office that receives funding from the municipal government, while the Hong Kong side has no dedicated funding and is organised by a steering committee made up of members from the Institute of Architects, the Institute of Planners and the Designers Association.

Committee members said the reason the call for curatorial proposals was put out more than a year after Shenzhen's was because they were waiting to make sure the Home Affairs Bureau could provide funding. "The organiser needs to have confidence that sponsorship funding is available before calling out for curatorial proposals," wrote committee members in a statement.

Eve Tam Mei-yee, the curator of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, served as a liaison between the biennale and the Home Affairs Bureau. She said it was not until April that the steering committee approached the Home Affairs Bureau for funding.

Though it had only given HK$1 million for 2007 biennale, the bureau said it could provide more if the event was hosted in West Kowloon, where its opening could coincide with the East Asian Games and it could stimulate public interest in the future West Kowloon Cultural District. Under those conditions, the Home Affairs Bureau agreed to sponsor HK$5 million of the biennale's proposed HK$6.8 million budget. Tam said the committee did not give the bureau a firm proposal because the curators had not yet been chosen.

"It was a very tight schedule that they were working on, she said. "They were going to open in early December but I was told they were seeking additional funding in November, but they did not have enough time to work out the details of that extra funding."

The steering committee's original vision for the biennale was more modest than what took place. The committee estimated the current edition would cost only a little more than HK$6 million - the 2007 edition had a HK$8.42 million budget. The original plans submitted to the Home Affairs Bureau called for a maximum of 30 exhibits installed along the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade. Those plans, said Yiu, would have made for a biennale that would have attracted little public interest. After her curatorial team was chosen to lead the event, they nearly tripled the number of installations and expanded the biennale site to include a large undeveloped piece of land that fenced off from the public. Hosting only a handful of exhibits "on a very manicured promenade" would have had less of an impact, she said.

The tight budget forced many participants to rely on their own wits to get things done.

"I think it's a miracle that [the curators] were able to pull it all off," said architect turned artist Kacey Wong, who is in his 30s. He used his own money to build Paddling Home, a houseboat that resembles a miniature Hong Kong apartment, complete with pink exterior tiles, a bay window, a metal gate and a door altar. A meditation on the state of homes in Hong Kong, the piece has proved one of the most popular installations at the biennale. In a city where people pay a fortune for good views, his floating home has 360 degree views taking in all the harbourfront.

Yesterday, Stanley Wong took his Heaven on Earth - a sampan with tree and greenery - out onto the water as a pastoral counterpart to Kacey's house.

In the future, the steering committee wrote in a statement, the government should follow Shenzhen's model and commit long-term funding to events like the biennale.

"The organiser should be able to plan well ahead without fear of lack of funding or finding a suitable site for the exhibition," they wrote.

Yiu, who said Shenzhen was already organising for next year, is more blunt in her assessment: "It's been kind of ad hoc, which is the spirit of Hong Kong, but you can't always depend on the passions of people to drive it along. You need time and money. The biennale cannot be served up on a platter."
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 08:19 PM   #704
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High-speed link 'no threat to arts hub'
23 January 2010
South China Morning Post

Officials have pledged that the construction of the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou will not delay the completion of the West Kowloon Cultural District, even though the work areas overlap.

With the HK$66.9 billion railway approved, lawmakers asked whether it would delay the arts hub opening in 2015 because one-third of the 42-hectare site would be occupied by the storage of rail materials and the construction of the terminus.

"I'm worried that the arts hub project will have to give way to the rail project. If there is a schedule conflict, how will it be solved?" Lee Wing-tat of the Democrats said.

He noted that the underground rail terminus would be sited on the eastern end of the arts hub - a 5.5 hectare area that would not be returned until 2013. It is also the last lot to be handed over.

Lee said the construction schedule was very tight and asked whether it allowed for contingency plans if there was a delay in the rail work.

He was also doubtful arts events could be held at the hub, given the dust from the construction work.

Augustine Ng Wah-keung, a project director at the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, said the holding of arts events would be concentrated on the western end of the hub, buffered from the building works by a clear area in the middle.

As for the underground rail terminus, the noise and vibrations from the foundation work would not affect the arts facilities to be built above it, he said.

The foundations above the five-storey terminus will be able to support structures of up to 70 metres high, or 15 to 20 storeys.

Wong Yung-kan, representing the agricultural and fishing sector, reminded officials to take into account the area's strong waves when designing ferry piers linking to the hub. "Fishermen told me it is difficult to moor in the area," he said.

The lawmakers also inquired about the progress in recruiting a chief executive for the cultural district authority. Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said the authority had yet to make a choice and needed more time to interview overseas candidates.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 09:56 AM   #705
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Arts hub chief likely to be European
21 February 2010
South China Morning Post

The HK$21 billion West Kowloon Cultural District is set to come under European leadership as the authority trims the options down to two finalists for the top job.

A person familiar with the selection process said that after a thorough worldwide search for a potential chief executive for the arts hub, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority had narrowed the shortlist to two European candidates, and they both have strong experience in contemporary arts in Europe.

The person said the final round of the interview process for the post would take place tomorrow.

It was hoped that the contract with the chosen candidate can be signed in March, and he or she can be officially on board in May or June at the earliest.

The search for the right person has been tough, the person said. There has not been a great pool of homegrown talent as most of the experienced arts administrators are either current or former civil servants, the person said.

The authority also tried looking for experienced talent from the US, but they turned out to be beyond the financial reach of the arts hub in its ability to match their salaries, the person said.

More than 50 applications had been received for the job, which pays more than HK$3 million a year, a similar wage for the head of the Urban Renewal Authority.

The arts hub authority is also looking for six executive directors in museum policy, performing arts policy, project delivery, finance, human resources, as well as marketing, communication and programming.

The person said there was great potential for the executive director overlooking performing arts to be a local person, but the museum policy position was highly likely to be a non-local Chinese person.

An earlier report said it was highly possible the arts hub would be headed by an overseas talent.

Hong Kong's arts community said it could accept a foreigner to lead the West Kowloon hub as it was the only option available. But it hoped the chief executive would be sensitive to local arts and culture, and that he or she would be given freedom to take the arts sector to a new level.
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Old February 26th, 2010, 07:30 AM   #706
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Research on arts, cultural sector criticised
22 February 2010
SCMP

Studies and research done to divine the needs and aspirations of Hong Kong's arts and cultural sector - and then to develop policy to realise the city's creative-hub dream - are badly directed compared to similar efforts overseas, one critic says.

"What we have only illuminates a little corner of the whole picture," art critic Mathias Woo said. "These studies have just been scattered around, conducted without a master plan."

Following the recent release of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council's (ADC) first annual arts survey, another study on the arts and cultural sector is due for release mid year.

The Central Policy Unit and the Home Affairs Bureau were studying the sector's human resources, a government spokesman said, the findings of which would be used to help develop policy.

The ADC survey collected hard facts on the performing arts and visual arts sectors, comparing figures such as audience distribution, event types, ticket prices and government funding.

Council chief executive Louis Yu Kwok-lit said there had been much qualitative discussion on arts and cultural policies, but little quantitative information gathered.

"This statistical report is a breakthrough, and it will lay a good foundation for future discussion on cultural policies," Yu said.

The Hong Kong Arts Administrators Association welcomed the council's survey as a first step towards building an evidential basis for planning and evaluation. "The report also provides helpful data for organisations to take stock of where they stand in the bigger picture today. We hope that the exercise will be repeated regularly over time, to track development and inform or verify the impact of any policy decisions," association chairwoman Tisa Ho said.

Critic Woo said that results of the studies would be crucial to generation of policies shaping the sector's future development. The government had finally realised the importance of research, although it had been a late starter compared to many administrations in the region.

However, Woo said research in Hong Kong had been inadequate. A quick Web search showed that only a few culture and arts studies had been commissioned since the handover in 1997. Only nine reports on the subjects could be found on the website of the Home Affairs Bureau, the government arm responsible for development of cultural policy.

Among them, the most relevant was 2004's A Study on Creative Index, using data from between 1999 and 2004 to assess the city's creative vitality and assist policy-making. But there has been no follow-up. Other studies were mostly consultant studies or reports on arts and cultural facilities.

The Central Policy Unit released a summary of A Pilot Study on the Practice of Theatre in Hong Kong in September 2009.

But then one must go back to 2004's Study on the Third Sector Landscape in Hong Kong, in which one chapter focuses on arts and culture. In 2003 there was the Baseline Study on Hong Kong's Creative Industries, which took a detailed look at various creative sectors and their potential development.

The Arts Development Council's website revealed 10 surveys done since 2000, including this year's Annual Arts Survey Report. Before that, the last study the council conducted was in 2006.

In contrast, neighbouring countries appeared to have put a lot more effort into research at much earlier stages of their cultural development.

Singapore's National Arts Council has collected data on its arts and culture since 1997. Continual research has closely monitored developments.

The council provides arts statistics from between 1997 and 2008, as well as cultural statistics, and information on the economic contributions of the arts and cultural sector from 2003 onwards.

In South Korea, where the government actively promotes cultural and creative industries, Arts Council Korea runs an arts library housing a substantial collection of documents and research related to arts and culture. The Korea Arts and Culture Education Services, jointly set up by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Education, has conducted more than 20 studies on arts and cultural education policies from 2005 onwards.

"In comparison, studies [done on Hong Kong] have been very basic, and have been done only because [development of] the West Kowloon Cultural District is approaching," Woo said. Data collection and close observation of the sector's ecology were crucial to generating policy, but the city was lagging well behind.

Woo questioned whether the manpower mapping study of the Central Policy Unit and Home Affairs Bureau could provide accurate insights. "How do they define manpower in the sector? he said. "Do they include reporters covering arts and culture? And will they include actors and investors in the field?" Researchers needed to provide not just hard facts, but also analysis.

Ho said that while the ADC's report provided a multitude of facts and figures, it offered no commentary or policy recommendations. She said some figures, such as the ratios of audiences to the city's population, were meaningless unless they were compared to overseas examples.
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Old March 5th, 2010, 10:48 AM   #707
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A change of art
22 February 2010
The Standard

Hundreds of millions of dollars from the West Kowloon cultural district's multibillion-dollar budget is set to be redirected to enhancing "software" as the government undergoes a dramatic change of heart.

The government hopes to switch some funds from the HK$21.6 billion approved by the Legislative Council last July and use them for improving cultural software - that is, the people, programs and events - by training performers and educating audiences, a source said.

Local groups, which are expected to benefit most from the revised approach, welcomed the idea.

The source said the funding will be used for three purposes: to enhance arts education in schools and non-traditional training centers; to subsidize art groups and sponsor performers to go overseas; and provide free art classes and tickets to performances.

Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying- yen, who is also West Kowloon Cultural District Authority chairman, will have to formally ask Legco to change the use of part of the approved funding.

The first phase of the arts hub is set to open in 2014 or 2015.

Chung Ying Theatre Company art director Ko Tin-lung said he had suggested that the Arts Development Council spend HK$500 million to improve the software for the cultural hub, which will contain up to 15 performing arts venues and a museum.

"The government should not wait for construction of the venues to start training talent," Ko said.

He suggested that HK$50 million be used in a trial scheme and, to ensure the most effective use of the money, existing arts groups should be sponsored.

On education, Ko said drama, for example, could be added to liberal studies in school.

"The students can understand the topic first then do a play on it," he said. "Students can then learn both drama and social issues."

Ko said many talented set decorators and lighting crew had left Hong Kong for Macau when the new casinos offered more attractive packages.

"The government should now estimate how many people they need when the art venues and museum are open."

However, Mathias Woo Yan-wai, creative and program director of arts group Zuni Icosahedron, said the government might not need the money from the cultural hub's budget as it could strengthen existing funding from the Home Affairs Bureau.

He said what Hong Kong lacks most is art teachers.

"Not all art experts can teach. Not all actors can be teachers," he said.

"To set a policy to train the teachers is a very important way to provide more 'software' too."
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Old March 15th, 2010, 10:05 AM   #708
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Better luck next time with Biennale BYOB
5 March 2010
South China Morning Post

Lai See has heard a number of arguments over the years about the origins of the phrase BYOB.

However, there can be no argument that it didn't stem from: "The Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture that respond to the theme of City Mobilisation: BYOB (Bring Your Own Biennale)."

That was the catchy little title of the recently concluded three months of exhibitions and events that were staged on the site of the West Kowloon Cultural District.

It prompted one confused reader to ask: "Why did I have to bring my Biennale to a Biennale? You don't ask people to bring their dinner to a restaurant, do you?"

Another commented: "I think they tried too hard to be different. They were really over the top with these BYOB slogans - bring your own beacons, bring your own banners, bring your own benches.

"Why did I have to bring all these things to an exhibition? Was I supposed to DIY my own Biennale? Their overarching concept was wrong," said another reader.

Lai See can only assume the organisers were trying to mobilise the public with the BYOB catchphrase and inspire individual participation to work outside conventional boundaries to generate unexpected results.

All we can say is: BLNT (Better Luck Next Time).
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Old April 8th, 2010, 05:59 PM   #709
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Arts hub will be isolated without light rail link
7 April 2010
South China Morning Post

You say that Hong Kong people want an easily accessible arts hub ("Public has arts hub say, but critics attack survey questions", April 1).

But according to the article "Arts hub design will surprise, Foster vows" (March 29), the government's plan is to sink Austin Road "below ground so that people visiting the hub can walk directly there from the station". Covering a distance of nearly one kilometre from Austin station just to reach the hub (and only slightly less from the future express rail link terminal), one wonders what state visitors will be in when they arrive, especially at the height of summer.

The MTR Corporation has further proposed "six bridges and two tunnels" to connect Austin to Jordan station, an additional 520 metres, which represents a total of three kilometres walking for the round trip to the arts hub. This is totally unacceptable, especially for young families and the elderly.

Lord Foster stated that: "The arts hub has to be a magnet drawing people there." But the location in West Kowloon is totally isolated from existing public transport links. It therefore requires a dedicated, environmentally friendly public transport system that can integrate with the arts hub and also advertise it in the environs with a distinctive vehicle design.

This can most readily be achieved by means of a light rail system which would not only feed visitors into the hub from existing southern Kowloon public transport nodes, but also traverse the hub area with minimum impact by embedding the rails within a lawn to reduce noise.

The vehicles would be the "low-floor" type, enabling easy access from street level. This is a popular feature in many European cities which operate modern tramways.

The main route would extend from the hub eastwards along Wui Cheung Road (Austin MTR); Austin Road (Jordan MTR); Cheong Wan Road (Museum of History) to Hung Hom station. The new line would enable East Rail passengers visiting the arts hub to avoid the heavily used MTR southern link line through Tsim Sha Tsui.

A branch line could be constructed south along Canton Road, terminating at the present Star Ferry Bus terminus.

After reconstruction, this area could be provided with a sea-view piazza on the roof of the new terminal connecting directly into the raised walkway along the harbour front.

Using the light rail transit with suitably decorated stops, and a few more surprises, the effect of the arts hub could spread eastwards to become an integral part of southern Kowloon rather than be a small projection off its western shoreline.

Michael Baxter, Tuen Mun
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Old April 25th, 2010, 05:39 AM   #710
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Arts hub chief vows to make global impact
25 March 2010
The Standard

A British artistic director named as the first chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District has promised to set up a multi-national team to create a cultural hub of ``global impact.''

After a worldwide search, Barbican Centre artistic director Graham Sheffield has been appointed to the post, which he will take up in August.

Sheffield, 58, who worked at the London-based multi-arts and conference venue for 15 years, described Hong Kong's art scene as ``good and vibrant'' and said he aims to take it to a new level.

``It is a unique place and as such I think it's ideally in a position to become the next great world art city,'' he said.

Sheffield, chosen from 52 worldwide applicants, admitted that he is not an expert in local arts and promised to help put together a well- balanced and multi-national team which includes experts of different art areas.

``We, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, will work with the community, with the local art groups, building local pride and engagement but also creating something of global importance and impact,'' he said.

Sheffield also said he is used to dealing with politics.

``Democracy has existed since the beginning of civilization. I think it's a necessary part of life to navigate that and I have my own tricks for obeying the rules but getting round them,'' he said.

Sheffield said he will also work on attracting mainland audiences to attend performances in West Kowloon.

Chief Secretary for Administration and chairman of the authority's board, Henry Tang Ying-yen, said Sheffield is ``the right man'' for the post.

``We did not intentionally look for a Chinese or non-Chinese. We just looked for the best person for the job,'' Tang said.

``Apart from his artistic and administrative achievements, Graham puts strong emphasis on developing artistic talent and has a remarkable track record in arts education and audience building.''

Tang yesterday declined to reveal Sheffield's salary, saying it will be mentioned in the authority's financial report.

The 2010-11 financial report will be filed to the Legislative Council by September next year, an authority spokeswoman said.

Jim Chim Sui-man, artistic director of Pleasure, Imagination, Play, said a local with insight in the city's art scene should be hired to assist Sheffield. He said art has already emerged as one of the most prominent industries in the world, but Hong Kong is still focused on finance.

Chim hoped Sheffield can bring the city's creative industry to a new level.
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Old July 7th, 2010, 06:13 PM   #711
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Architectural team breaks rules in concept plan to build arts hub
6 July 2010
South China Morning Post

One of the three rival concept plans for the West Kowloon arts hub deviates from the design brief laid down by the government and may go slightly over budget.

The plans, presented to the board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in a closed-door meeting yesterday, will not be made public until next month when the second stage of consultation starts.

Each of the three architect teams had 90 minutes to introduce their work to the board at the meeting.

A person familiar with the arts hub development said all three teams had made a remarkable effort in turning the site into a green place, complying with the brief that 23 of the 42 hectares of the arts hub area had to be open space.

One of the three teams proposed a different phasing for the project - supposedly a two-phrase development to be completed by 2031 - which may result in a later final completion date, another person said. The design would also cost more than the budget.

The government has set aside HK$21.6 billion for the construction of the arts hub, which will be home to 15 performing arts venues, a museum known as M+, residential buildings, and retail and dining facilities.

The concept plans are intended to show the land use and layout of the cultural district as a whole, rather than the designs of individual buildings, which will be put up for competition later.

The authority has commissioned Britain's Foster and Partners, the Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture - led by Rem Koolhaas - and local firm Rocco Design Architects to draft the master plans.

"Foster is safe and boring; Koolhaas is challenging the rule and unrealistic; Rocco Yim is adaptive and complicated," planning activist Paul Zimmerman, said after receiving information from people familiar with the project.

"What is now important is to provoke a heated discussion about the merits and demerits of each option so the public can understand why the architects made their proposals and, in certain case, break the rules, which may not be a bad thing," said Zimmerman, who led Designing Hong Kong, an NGO concerned with urban planning.

A person close to the Foster design team said its plan would carry a local flavour, creating friendly streetscapes with shops like the old Yau Tsim Mong district and avoiding huge modern structures.

The three plans are undergoing preliminary assessments on technical feasibility and compliance with statutory requirements, the authority said last night. The public consultation exercise will last until November and feature a roving exhibition across the city, guided tours and forums.

The exhibition will showcase the three conceptual plans with models and animations. The public will be asked to comment on individual features of each option but not to make a choice out of the three, which is a decision to be made by the authority.
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Old July 15th, 2010, 05:54 PM   #712
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Global gloss, but where is the local scene?
Despite influx of events, Hong Kong’s artists have not found spotlight

8 July 2010
International Herald Tribune

Much has been made of Hong Kong’s push to become what the government likes to call an ‘‘art hub.’’ Its auction revenue is now third only to London and New York. Its annual art fair, which began only in 2008, is marked by million-dollar sales.

The city has proved its skill in organizing large, expensive events for international buyers, who laud the territory’s efficiency and tax-free status. Hong Kong excels at trading other peoples’ art. The question is, can it make its own?

A look through offerings at major sales, fairs and galleries turns up very few local names. While dealers and auction houses have profited, Hong Kong artists have had almost no share in the Chinese contemporary art boom that took place in the last five years.

The high-end events — where millionaires jet in to snap up prized paintings — are a shiny new facade. The local art scene pales in comparison.

Critics blame many factors: a stodgy state-run museum system, high real estate prices that discourage young artists from setting up studios, and a society that values traditional industries like banking.

Unlike the big names from London, New York, Tokyo or Beijing, no artists from Hong Kong have reached near-celebrity status. There is little in terms of vibrant local arts communities, like those that have cropped up in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the 798 Art District outside Beijing, or in other cities’ outlying areas.

The Hong Kong Contemporary Art Biennial Awards exhibition, which runs through Aug. 1 at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, is the largest showcase for local works. A government-run project that began in 1975, it is mandated to show only Hong Kong artists, meaning it does not get the critical attention that a more wide-ranging one would.

The most striking piece at the show is Hung Keung’s ‘‘Dao Gives Birth to One,’’ a Taoist-inspired work with screens showing a mesmerizing black-and-white pattern of Chinese characters and radicals constantly moving and melding. It was a refreshing addition for a biennial known for being stuffy and bureaucratic. In fact, ‘‘Dao’’ could not have qualified before last year, since a strict size restriction (3 meters, or about 10 feet, by 3 meters by 3 meters) was in force until then.

One issue younger artists have to grapple with is the fact that Hong Kong has some of the most expensive real estate in the world, with home prices rising almost 30 percent last year alone. Homes can cost more than $1,000 per square foot, and even spaces in the outlying New Territories go for several hundred U.S. dollars per square foot.

The largest cluster of young talent is in Fo Tan, a former industrial area in the New Territories where artists have been migrating since 2001. It is now home to about 180 artists and 50 studios.

But it is different from places like the 798 district in Beijing because it is essentially closed to the public. There are few small museums, galleries or even cool cafes or bookstores. It only draws crowds during the two weeks in January designated the Fotanian Open Studio period.

Another community is the Cattle Depot Artists Village, a state-funded project. Its century-old red-brick buildings, with traditional, slanted roofs would be charming if they weren’t located next to a garbage processing center in the run-down neighborhood of To Kwa Wan.

In 2001, Hong Kong gave a collection of art groups permission to use the Cattle Depot space, which the government also subsidizes. But, again, there are few open studios or exhibition spaces here, as it is mostly used for administrative offices.

Two spaces in the Cattle Depot — The Artist Commune and 1a space — sometimes have interesting shows, but few people see them.

‘‘We had more than 60 people for an opening a few weekends ago,’’ said Hilda Chan of Videotage, which has Hong Kong’s only archive of local video art. ‘‘But because we’re so remotely located, we don’t get many walk-in visitors. The setup is pretty discouraging.’’

Most days, the Cattle Depot is all but deserted except for a few staff members and security guards. Since it is run by a government bureau, surly guards sit by the entrance, grilling visitors.

The entire scene is a world away from the fairs and auctions that visitors see.

So what makes Hong Kong art different?

In some ways, it can be more old-fashioned than other contemporary Chinese art. The biennale had a large room with intricate calligraphy done on paper, fans and gold leaf — perhaps a reflection of the fact that Hong Kong still uses traditional complex written characters, which China does not. It also featured classical works, like long scrolls and misty mountainscapes, even from younger artists.

Hong Kong art is also less overtly political, eschewing much of the Communist imagery of contemporary Chinese art. There are very few Mao Zedong caricatures, or the rows of exaggerated smiling Chinese faces seen in the mainland Chinese art style called Cynical Realism.

Henry Au-yeung, who owns the only gallery in Hong Kong dedicated exclusively to local artists, explained the contrast.

‘‘If you look at the last 50 years, Hong Kong has been relatively stable, while mainland China has had all sorts of political upheavals,’’ said Mr. Au-yeung, who founded Grotto Fine Art in 2001. ‘‘The result has been dramatic, sensationalistic art, using icons like Mao Zedong or Tiananmen Square. It has a strong iconography and a strong narrative that appeals to a Western audience: the oppressed rising up to express themselves. Hong Kong art is less obvious.’’

Claire Hsu, the founder of the Hong Kong-based Asia Art Archive, had another assessment. ‘‘It is a known fact that Hong Kong art has not faired well commercially, especially in comparison to art from mainland China, although this is changing,’’ she said. ‘‘Arguably, it is this freedom from market pressure that has seen the emergence of a group of artists in Hong Kong whose works are conceptually very strong. You won’t find any grinning faces staring back at you.’’

Some change is under way. Hanart, which was opened by Johnson Chang in 1983 and is the city’s most established gallery, carries art from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In late May it opened another space — Hanart Square — in the industrial Kwai Chung area, with a show of about a dozen Hong Kong artists.

The government also has two projects planned in the next few years. One is the enormous West Kowloon Cultural District, which is estimated to cost more than $2 billion, and whose plans have been debated and delayed for years.

In an oddity for cultural planning, it is expected to include retail shops, restaurants and residential blocks. One concern is that it will be taken over by business interests and the city’s aggressive real estate developers, and become something like an art-themed shopping mall/housing complex.

There are more modest plans for the currently empty Central Police Station, a lovely complex of colonial-era buildings on Hollywood Road. According to a government press release, it will become ‘‘a self-sustaining, non-profit site that will be home to designers, art studios and exhibition spaces.’’

‘‘Something is better than nothing,’’ said Mr. Au-yeung. ‘‘But I don’t know if the government really understands how to develop culture, so I don’t have very many expectations.’’

Meanwhile, he is preparing to take a collection of local art on the road to various fairs over the next year: Art Basel Miami Beach, The Armory Show in New York and then Art Basel. ‘‘We’re getting ready to go into the big, wide world,’’ he said, ‘‘where nobody knows us.’’
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Old July 31st, 2010, 05:09 PM   #713
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By shawnchau from a Hong Kong discussion forum :

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Old August 10th, 2010, 12:06 PM   #714
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Hub `beauty contest' ruled out
10 August 2010
The Standard

Architects Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas and Rocco Yim Sen-kee, who are competing to develop the West Kowloon Cultural District, have presented their masterplans for the massive complex.

Theplans will be soon be unveiled for a three- month public consultation.

It will kick off on August 20, followed by a number of roving exhibitions across the territory.

In the first of the three public forums, the three masters from London-based firm Foster + Partners, Rotterdam's Office for Metropolitan Architecture and the local Rocco Design Architects will present their concepts for the 40-hectare hub on August 22 at the convention and exhibition center in Wan Chai.

``Each of their plans has a specific theme,'' said Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, chairman of the consultation panel of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

``All are very nice and different from each other. They did incorporate the ideas expressed by the public into their designs.''

Cheung did not go into details, but stressed that all the three firms address public worries on the so-called ``wall effect'' from possible high rises and the complex's connectivity to the fabric of the city as well as its transport arrangements inside.

The exhibition will feature 3D models and animated videos. ``With interactive three- dimensional models and animated videos, visitors could feel like they were inside the hub,'' Cheung said. ``There are also models at scales of 1:1,000 and 1:2,000. The models at the scale of 1:2,000 can show how the West Kowloon hub connects with its neighboring areas.''

Cheung said the public will be asked to state which features in the three concepts they prefer, but will not be asked to vote for their favorite plan or give a rating to all the plans.

``It is not a beauty contest. We won't simply ask the public to pick their favorites. We want to know what they like and dislike regarding each of the plans,'' he said.

Chan Man-wai, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority project delivery executive director, said: ``The contracts we signed with the firms state that we can use their design. It is unlike a competition in which we can only use the winner's plan.''

Suggesting that the final design may incorporate the features of three different plans, Chan expressed hope that the features will match the overall design.

Cheung estimates the second round of consultation will be more expensive than the previous one, which cost about HK$5 million.

The first round, carried out between October and January, sought views of the public on overall planning of the hub and views of performers on facilities in arts and cultural venues.

Cheung said the Public Policy Research Institute of the Polytechnic University will complete the analysis of the views and report to the consultation panel early next year.

The panel will then table the report to the board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, which will then pick one of the three architectural firms for the project.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 06:00 PM   #715
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Hong Kong is not a cultural desert, David Tang says
14 July 2010
SCMP

Hong Kong is not a cultural desert, says entrepreneur and author David Tang Wing-cheung, and he aims to prove his theory right by organising a series of cultural events, from literature to fashion and theatre.

To kick off the programme he is inviting three renowned British authors to two sessions of a public forum during next week's Book Fair.

"The fact is, there are many people who are very culture-sensitive," says Tang, an art lover and cultural critic. "I have always thought Hong Kong is actually not a cultural desert. The image has attached itself to this territory because we are dwarfed by mad moneymaking and therefore people tend to think we do nothing else."

Tang has invited three author friends - Frederick Forsyth, Andrew Roberts and Stephen Fry - to fly to Hong Kong at his expense to attend a forum to discuss "How and what and why do writers write?"

One session will be held next Friday at the Convention and Exhibition Centre as one of the cultural events of the Book Fair, which has been aiming to expand the readership of English books. The other one will be at the University of Hong Kong on July 24.

Tang, who will be the moderator for both, says the popularity of the Book Fair, with nearly a million visitors last year, is one of the reasons for organising the forum.

"What does that tell you? The good news is, people are reading," says the founder of Shanghai Tang and the China Club, often addressed as Sir David since he was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire, the second-highest rank in the Order of the British Empire, in the 2008 New Year Honours list.

"It means that they must be interested in the lives of authors - what they do, how they do it and why they do it," says Tang, speaking at his Central office surrounded by books. "I thought it would be fantastic ... to make use of this opportunity to invite some of my good friends to come." He has been friends with the three celebrated authors for a long time.

Former journalist Forsyth, author of award-winning The Day of the Jackal and The Afghan, is one of the most popular thriller writers in the world.

Roberts is a historian and author of military books, including Masters and Commanders in 2008, which won him the Emery Reves Award of the International Churchill Society.

TV and film personality Fry, Described by Tang as incredibly witty and humorous, is a columnist as well as author of four novels, including The Liar.

Tang has high regard for his friends' achievements and believes they will provide an interesting forum.

"There are authors who are Nobel prize winners but they might not be as articulate as you would want them at a public forum," Tang says.

"I think these three friends of mine will fit the bill very well. I want them to excite people, respond to questions and be not only informative but also witty."

Last April, Tang staged an open forum at which nine leading cultural figures from around the world discussed how to make the West Kowloon Cultural District a success. Tang moderated the forum at the Academy for Performing Arts, which attracted a full house and generated heated discussion, both inside the venue and after the event.

This success motivated Tang to organise more cultural events.

By the end of the year, he hopes to organise a fashion forum, inviting people such as Vogue US editor Anna Wintour, whom Tang met recently and who has expressed interest in coming to Hong Kong. Others such as Stella McCartney, Jimmy Choo and Tom Ford are also on Tang's list. Acting will also be an interesting subject for discussion, and Tang suggests that Michael Caine and Jude Law could be potential guests.

Tang wants to ensure the forums are open to the public. "Anybody can come," he says. "When you have a good speaker, you either have to pay for it, or be a member of a fancy chamber of commerce, or be a High Street banker. [But] when I do a forum, I want it to be entirely free, entirely open to the public.

"I thought that one small contribution that I can make to the territory is to bring certain international people to come and talk about things that I know the public at large will be interested in," he says. "I will keep doing [these events] until nobody comes. Then I will give up."

The Book Fair runs from July 21 to 27 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 07:22 AM   #716
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36pc absentee rate at Tsang's strategic development talks
7 August 2010
SCMP

Once described by Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as the government's "most important advisory body", the Commission on Strategic Development has an average absentee rate of more than one-third in its meetings in the past year.

One member, legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, has not attended any of the commission's four regular meetings since the beginning of its current term in July last year.

The commission, chaired by the chief executive, has 69 non-official members serving for a three-year term. Calculations from the latest attendance records provided by its secretariat showed that on average, each of the regular meetings had an attendance rate of 64 per cent - slightly lower than the 67 per cent in the previous two-year term, while the average absence rate was 36 per cent.

Ten members have attended all of the four meetings, while seven others have attended only one.

Lee was on a trip to Singapore yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

He was reappointed to the commission last year after having attended only one of the seven meetings in the previous two-year term.

Basic Law committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie and University of Hong Kong vice-chancellor Professor Tsui Lap-chee, who both attended only one meeting in the past year, said they had missed three meetings because of engagements outside Hong Kong.

Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman said he was on business trips on two occasions and had missed another meeting because it clashed with an important meeting for the selection of the chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, of which he was a board member.

Four other members who missed three meetings, Dr Victor Fung Kwok-king, Jack So Chak-kwong, Professor Wang Shaoguang and Dr Allan Wong Chi-yun, could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Central Policy Unit, which provides secretariat and research support to the commission, said the average attendance rate of the present term so far was about the same as in the past.

"As non-official CSD members are leaders from their respective fields, it is understandable that they may not be able to attend every regular meeting ... Besides, many of those who are unable to attend a meeting have forwarded their views in writing prior to or after the meeting," she said.

The four meetings discussed the chief executive's policy address, Hong Kong's regional co-operation with the mainland and other East Asian economies, and the government's public consultation on subsidising home ownership.

The commission was established by then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa in 1998 to explore long-term development strategies for Hong Kong. In an initiative to boost its functions, Tsang expanded its size in 2005, saying in his policy address the commission was the most important advisory body to the government.

Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok said he believed the commission's attendance rate was about the same as many other government advisory bodies. He said that given the large size of the commission it would be difficult for members to have a real exchange of views. Instead, high-level bodies with about six to eight members would allow in-depth discussions of long-term developments, he said.

Dr Lo Chi-kin, who sat on the Committee on Governance and Political Development under the commission from 2005 to 2007, said the way the commission operated was largely different between then and now. "At that time, our committee met every two months to discuss the latest developments of constitutional reform." The commission does not have any sub-group in the current term. With the whole commission meeting four times on four topics in one year, he said: "I am not sure how much it can do."
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Old August 18th, 2010, 12:56 AM   #717
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In anticipation of the big reveal in the next few days, do we have someone in Hong Kong to post an update here??
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Old August 18th, 2010, 05:12 AM   #718
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^ Yes - plenty of forumers on the ground to give that update.
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Old August 20th, 2010, 05:40 PM   #719
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Is this the new plan for this area?
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Old August 20th, 2010, 06:59 PM   #720
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Here they are : http://www.news.gov.hk/en/category/h...820en05004.htm
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