Central Part 2

When you think of Hong Kong, shopping and dining are foremost on people’s minds. Little does it occur that there is an under noticed but very lively art scene in the territory. You may automatically relate the upper streets in Central as the LKF clubbing hot spot but the area is also an artistic hubbub. The past two decades or so have seen a growing interest in Chinese contemporary art, for its artistic and investment value. The eye popping prices buyers pay in auction houses attest to the fact that China’s art work is a recognizable force in the art scene. Hong Kong being the spring board to and from China has become the magnet for galleries showcasing Chinese contemporary art.

As the art movement gains momentum, galleries have metamorphosed into a business service rather than purely exhibiting artworks. The Schoeni Art Gallery provides consultation services to collectors and corporate clients alike. Prominent artworks from the gallery are displayed at places such as the Grand Hyatt Hotel Shanghai. Galleries are always on the lookout for new talent, budding artists can submit their works to Asia Fine Art, where discerning eyes at the gallery will evaluate them. Asia Fine Art also boasts a collection of artwork from over 60 artists spanning seven countries in the Asia region, specializing in Vietnamese and Chinese contemporary art.

At Ora Ora Gallerie, its belief in “art is a lifestyle” can be seen in its effort to incorporate artworks into homes and corporations as well as commissioning artists for private, corporate and public places. The Grotto Fine Art Consultancy has placed collections in museums such as Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, Landmark Hotel Hong Kong and The Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. First opened in Singapore in 1994, the Opera Gallery has showcased works by the giants the likes of Picasso, Dali and Chagall. The Gallery now operates in Paris, London, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong. If you are into history and cartography, Wattis Fine Art is just the place for you. It carries antique maps of Asia, photos and prints of Hong Kong, China and South East Asia.

The cultural scene in Hong Kong will not be complete without mentioning the Fringe Club. Converted from a Dairy Farm cold storage, the Fringe Club provides a free platform for local artists in theater, music, dance and visual arts to perform their gigs. The Fringe Club goes even further to provide logistic support for these shows. From its launch in 1999 The City Festival organized by the Fringe Club has continuously showcased the programs above with the hope to stimulate the audience with a new perspective to art and culture.

The Fringe Club also houses M at the Fringe. Since its opening in 1989 by Michelle Garnaut, the restaurant has become a haunt for stylish people. The décor at the M is chic and artsy yet the ambience not the least bit pretentious. The signature M is found everywhere. Handwritten menus in black and gold calligraphy add an intimacy to the elegant nonchalance of the restaurant. Tailor made menus are available for private parties and birthdays. M at the Fringe has expanded to M on the Bund in Shanghai and M in Beijing, all famous for culinary excellence and full reservations.

Combining art and food is not a novel idea, but to pull it off in a way where one won’t overwhelm the other is a challenge. Sevva is a concept restaurant opened by the style icon Bonnie Gokson, sibling to Joyce Ma, the mastermind of Joyce boutique and the fashion scene in Hong Kong. Sevva is located on the penthouse level of Prince’s Building in the heart of Central, opposite the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Sevva displays contemporary artworks all over the restaurant and given Bonnie’s background as the brain child of Joyce boutiques and Chanel stores, Sevva has all the touches of stylish elegance. The food at Sevva is colonial/shanghai and “healthy”. Sevva has a big al fresco area with big deep sofas and the view of the Hong Kong sky line from the rooftop is simply breathtaking. The setting of the low, deep sofas combined with the ambience completely relaxes you. It fosters conversations between friends and you won’t even mind strangers joining you on the sofa.

Hong Kong is on the brink of a unique time in its history. The colonial elements are still evident but a decade into the handover the influence of the Mainland can be felt. As the new culture brews one place seems to be constant. The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest zoological and botanical gardens opening in 1871. The park is nestled amongst the residential and commercial skyscrapers in the mid-levels. It is bigger than Hong Kong Park with more plants and birds. The park is organized into thematic gardens, such as the bamboo, magnolia, camellia and bauhinia gardens. Incidentally, the bauhinia flower is the regional flower for the HKSAR. You can find birds, primates and reptiles.

The Hong Kong Park is much newer opening in 1991. The Park is akin to a cascade of flowing water, with ponds, waterfalls and artificial rocks. You can see flamingoes and other rare birds in the Aviary. If you are an aficionado for plants, the Conservatory occupies 1,400 square meters and is one of the largest in Southeast Asia. With the water motif in the park, the Conservation Corner attempts to provide a natural habitat of streams and ponds for butterflies and dragonflies. Both parks are great places for photos and you will find many newlyweds posing in front of the fountains and waterfalls.

Hong Kong holds many surprises and is a true “Pearl in the East”. If you want to experience Hong Kong culturally, the galleries in the streets of Central offer you a glimpse into the emergence of China with a retrospect of Hong Kong. Many locals are nostalgic of an era gone by and the much preserved architecture in Central is a true gem in the Pearl.

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Bonnie Wong is a full time writer, bilingual translator and founder of Pastel b. cards. She hopes to share the uniqueness of Hong Kong with everyone through her writing. Learn more about me [+]

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