Hong Kong celebrates the power of art physically and virtually, as the world’s leading contemporary art fair returns in May

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

When event venues shut down globally during the pandemic, people flocked online in record numbers to satisfy their deep craving for art and culture. As the world cautiously looks to resume international travel and bring back events, it is fitting that art is a driving force to make this happen, with Hong Kong paving the way in the hope of safely staging large-scale events again.

In May, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) rolled out the ‘Arts in Hong Kong’ campaign to promote a series of major events, in both physical and digital format, organised by fair organisers and cultural institutions around town. It ensures that audiences can reconnect with art and the vitality of Hong Kong, whether here in person or abroad.

© Art Basel

Safely hosting major international events

After an absence of more than two years because of the pandemic, Art Basel is officially scheduled to take place from 21 to 23 May at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). More than 100 galleries from Asia, Europe and the Americas have confirmed their participation. In addition, Art Central will run concurrently at the HKCEC for the first time, and is free to attend with registration. The annual French May will continue to offer cultural entertainment, with over 100 events running from 1 May to 30 June.

To ensure that all fair participants have a stress-free experience, best-practice health and safety protocols will be followed, including mask-wearing, timed entry, reduced capacity, wider aisles and regular cleaning.

Art events that defy borders and barriers

Art has long had the power to break down boundaries, and unite and inspire people. Thanks to the depth of its imagination and creativity, Hong Kong’s dynamic arts community has nimbly pivoted to offer hybrid physical and virtual events for people around the world.

In addition to Art Basel, which will launch a new digital initiative, ‘Art Basel Live: Hong Kong’, in parallel with the physical show to amplify its international visibility, fairs that have adopted the hybrid format include Art Central and Yim Tin Tsai Arts Festival 2021. While Hong Kong Arts Festival’s PLUS programme is featuring a diverse line-up of online and in-venue experiences, the soon-to-be-opened West Kowloon Cultural District’s M+ museum is offering online movie screenings on demand.

The ‘Arts in Hong Kong’ campaign website features an interactive microfilm presented by two local celebrities.

HKTB gets in on the creative, interactive fun

Actively contributing to Hong Kong’s art revival, the HKTB created a dedicated campaign website, (www.discoverhongkong.com/Arts), which is a one-stop platform providing essential information about ‘Arts in Hong Kong’ and introducing online showcases, art itineraries, an event calendar, artsy offers, interviews with art insiders, and more.

In the online showcases, curated virtual experiences, provided by both international fairs and local events, are all at the fingertips of viewers, regardless of where they are located. It also features an interactive microfilm presented by two local celebrities – multidisciplinary artist Ivana Wong and director Kearen Pang – at some of the city’s coolest attractions, including Tai Kwun, The Mills and the West Kowloon Cultural District.

While we wait for international travel to resume, the wealth of virtual experiences on offer once again highlights Hong Kong’s diverse wealth of cultural treasures and underscores the city’s ability to remain agile in the face of unprecedented disruption.

Top 10 unmissable art events in May

Art Basel*

Held from 21 to 23 May at the HKCEC, the world’s leading art fair is a hybrid of the physical and virtual, featuring 104 influential galleries from 23 countries and territories. New this year, ‘Art Basel Live: Hong Kong’ will broadcast the fair to a global audience. www.artbasel.com/hong-kong

Art Central*

For the first time, satellite fair Art Central (20–23 May) will take place alongside Art Basel at the HKCEC. Works can be bought in person or online, and a talk programme organised by the Asia Society Hong Kong Center will be broadcast online. http://artcentralhongkong.com/

West Kowloon Cultural District*

Now nearing completion, the WKCD’s M+ museum has been offering documentary screenings on demand under a two-part programme, titled Cinema, Disrupted. Films and talks for Part Two: Interrupted Legacies will be available from 6 to 16 May.


French May & French GourMay

The annual French May (1 May–30 June) is a multicultural feast of more than 100 mostly in-person events, spanning art, design, opera, classical, pop concerts, dance, movies and more. www.frenchmay.com/en/home/

French GourMay (1–31 May) is an invitation to (re)discover French gastronomic heritage. www.frenchgourmay.com/

Hong Kong Museum of Art

The HKMoA’s initiative ‘Art For Everyone’ (until 23 May) features 100 artwork images from the museum’s collection, displayed across Hong Kong, complemented by augmented reality experiences. www.artforeveryone.hk/ 

It will also run a major Surrealist exhibition, featuring 100 artworks from Paris’ Centre Pompidou, from 21 May until September. https://hk.art.museum/

Tai Kwun

The former Central Police Station, now a heritage and art centre, will host live drama and dance performances by local artists during its performing arts season under the theme ‘SPOTLIGHT’ (until 16 May).


Yim Tin Tsai Arts Festival 2021*

This community arts festival is an opportunity to get a glimpse into this unique village with its Roman Catholic and Hakka background.

The third edition (until 16 July) features 31 art pieces, including 14 new works, available on-site and online. www.yimtintsaiartsfestival.hk/index.php?lang=en


Hong Kong’s annual street art and mural festival (8–16 May) returns with the takeover of wall space in the seaside district of Sai Kung, while an exhibition themed ‘Tools of the Trade’ on the history of street art will run until 6 June at Soho House. https://hkwalls.org/

Hong Kong Arts Festival*

The annual festival’s PLUS programme is embracing the digital format this year to connect with audiences both on and offstage. Available through June 2021 will be a hybrid line-up of online and in-venue programmes, in addition to an interactive online exhibition, and series of online documentaries and cinema screenings.


Arts in Hong Kong’ campaign website*

The HKTB brings art to an international audience with its dedicated ‘Arts in Hong Kong’ campaign website, a one-stop platform featuring online showcases, art itineraries, an event calendar, artsy offers, interviews with art insiders, and more. www.discoverhongkong.com/Arts

*Virtual experiences available

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