If you’re an art lover you’re in luck: Every March in Hong Kong, with the arrival of Art Basel and Art Central art fairs, the streets turn into a massive celebration for art. Everywhere you look, whether it’s galleries, street corners or alleyways, seems to be freshly adorned with vibrant art for the occasion. And with the opening of places such as H Queen’s — a new lifestyle and culture destination in the heart of Central (stay tuned for our dedicated guide to the building) — the city is becoming even more so home to some of the most discerning voices of art in the world. There’s something for everyone this month, whether it’s exquisite photography or tough art tackling difficult topics, blockbuster shows or quieter works expressing introverted world views. Without further ado, here are our picks for the 15 must-see exhibitions this month.
Leung Chi-wo: Something There and Never There
23 January to 10 March
Born in 1968, Para Site co-founder Leung Chi-wo takes a step back in time to the tumultuous year of 1967 -- the year of the Hong Kong civilian riots -- to dream of parallel universes at his current solo show at Blindspot Gallery. Through various media, he links strings of fate from seemingly unrelated events, characters and objects, as well as his own history together. On the exhibition closing date on 10 March, the artist will hold a talk from 3–4pm.
Elpis Chow: Blunt
24 February to 17 March
A promising young artist, Elpis Chow's debut solo show features a series of paintings of oft-overlooked places that we think we know. With a whimsical touch and a light colour palette, she renders empty zoos, twisting corridors and stark cityscapes into dreamy backdrops befitting of fantastical stories.
1 March to 17 March
Galerie Ora-Ora inaugurates their new gallery space at the prime new art and lifestyle hub H Queen's with a group show themed around literature. Gathering eight contemporary Chinese and Hong Kong artists -- including a graffiti piece by the iconic calligrapher Tsang Tsou-choi ("King of Kowloon"), this show is deeply influenced by ancient and classical literature to express the universality in art and words, and also reflects the gallery's long-standing passion for promoting contemporary ink art. One featured artist, Xiao Xu, will also get a solo exhibition at the end of the month (26 March–12 May), running concurrently with Art Basel Hong Kong.
3 March to 16 March
The uncertain and fast changing reputation, stigma, and ultimately, beauty, of cannabis and its associated culture has been one of the journalistic interests of Alex Maeland -- founder of creative culture magazine MAEKAN. The Seoul-born, Atlanta-raised Maeland challenges preconceived notions of the cannabis plant and showcases the beauty of its natural state in a new series of photographic works. At the opening night, you can also expect catering by his associated ventures Yardbird, Ronin and Sunday’s Grocery, as well as drinks curated by Fernet Hunter.
Notating Beauty that Moves
3 March to 29 March
Multimedia Hong Kong artist Samson Young has been in a lot of the limelight recently, with his Venice Biennale exhibition being presented again on home turf in “Songs for Disaster Relief World Tour” at the West Kowloon Cultural District. Working with his longtime musical painting series, the artist co-curates this cross-media exhibition and series of live performances at Artistree, where exhibits are playful musical scores of cacophonous scenes, as well as works by avant garde composers. Alongside the visual art, there’ll also be a series of concerts by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and the audacious Sydney-based group Ensemble Offspring.
Celebrating Hong Kong’s Rich Heritage of Women Artists
5 March to 11 March
Based on new research on the visibility of women artists in Hong Kong by Cambridge curator Eliza Gluckman and Phoebe Wong, Sotheby’s is hosting a special-loan exhibition at its Admiralty gallery space. The exhibition takes us through a chronological story of art by women from the past five decades, informed by graduates from the 70s, 90s and late 00s. Touching on subjects of gender imbalance and male domination of the art market, the exhibition comes at a timely occasion to spark further conversation ahead of International Women’s Day (8 March). On that note, Asia Society is also holding a discussion and reception of the series on the 8th (see link for more information). Artists featured include Au Hoi Lam, Rosamond Brown, Fang Zhaoling, Ko Sin Tung, Jaffa Lam Laam, Ellen Pau, Angela Su and more.
9 March to 24 March
Before exhibiting the radical works of the legendary French photographer Antoine D'Agata at the end of the month (30 March–25 May), Charbon Art Space is presenting a non-profit exhibition that questions the subjectivity within what we know about Myanmar. Curated by Caroline Ha Thuc, the show brings in acclaimed Burmese artists and photojournalists to deepen and expand the debate surrounding the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. Profits will go to Myanmar Mobile Education Project, a charity benefitting children's education in Myanmar. A range of special events, including curator talks, a lecture by Christophe Loviny -- founder of Yangon Photo Festival -- and movie screenings are in the programme and free to the public.
17 March to 28 April
Wing Shya's latest exhibition is a production of epic proportions, costing HK$3 million and over 100 people to create. And appropriately, it's a loud and proud love letter to the future of Hong Kong, the messy, twisted and vibrant city that raised him. Intimate portraits of forlorn faces, cosplayers and bondage victims play out against bright colours and neon signs. Through a mishmash of fetishes, manga culture and dilapidated buildings, it's as much a playground for intricate set production as it is a plea for the next generation to tear away the facades created by modern society and truly connect with one another. The show will also be displayed during Art Central (26 March–1 April).
23 March to 22 April
Formerly known as the Mill6 Foundation, the Centre for Heritage, Arts & Textile (CHAT) is set to become one of the largest non-profit art spaces in Hong Kong. Before its opening this summer at the former cotton mills in Tsuen Wan, the Centre is bringing a pop-up programme closer to the city centre, featuring a group show of three eminent Asian artists: Iwasaki Takahiro, Jung Yeondoo and Hong Kong's own Sarah Lai. Weaving personal and collective memories into newly commissioned works, they revisit and reinterpret Hong Kong's once booming garment industry for today's generation.
Jennifer Guidi: Heliocentric
26 March to 12 May
Exhibiting Jennifer Guidi for the first time in Asia (as well as with Gagosian), this show features all-new works by the Los Angeles-based painter. Guidi's sand paintings are beautiful sensory experiences in colour and texture, which begin with a thick "underpainting" layer of sand, before creating patterns using a wooden dowel, starting from left-of-centre, linking to the position of the human heart in the body. In a meditative, repetitive process of art-making, the works are as tactile as they are therapeutic for the artist and viewer (though, perhaps not so for those with trypophobia).
27 March to 19 May
Doug Aitken works with an eclectic range of media: massive billboards, site-specific environments, sound pieces, photography, sculpture and immersive video installations, but all have the common thread of his curiosity of displacing time and space from images and characters, within the context of wider industrial and environmental changes. Bringing American artist Doug Aitken for the first time in China, Massimo de Carlo Gallery will feature three shiny new works commissioned specially for the show. Shiny indeed: works are created from vast stretches of clear mirror, aluminium, stainless steel, and one video piece that depicts views of a set in the Southern Californian desert, also made up of reflective surfaces. When everything is going too fast during art month, Doug Aitken’s meditation on our accelerated society may bring you some solace.
27 March to 26 April
One of the most influential American artists in recent decades is having his first exhibition of paintings in Asia. Emerging from the midwest then later as a graduate of Cal Arts in the 70s, Jim Shaw grew an avid following for his “thrift store” art -- magpie-like collections of abject gems and found objects that represented the underbelly of America. It was an obsession to express America’s consumerist culture and materialism, religious fanaticism, and various counter-cultures throughout the years, sprinkled with humour wherever possible. Shaw’s newest works for this show feature ready-made canvases made of used theatre backdrops from the 40s and 50s, combined with imagery from 19th century political cartoons, DC comics, album covers, Hollywood movies and detective movies. It’s sure to be a goldmine to explore.
Antony Gormley: Rooting the Synapse
27 March to 19 May
Ever since perching curious human-looking sculptures in our high rises and CBD street corners in 2015 for his series “Event Horizon,” the British artist Antony Gormley returns to the SAR -- for a gallery show at White Cube Hong Kong. Presenting exciting new developments in his recent practice, his latest sculptures adopt plant-like geometric branching systems to depict the human figure. Patterns reference cultures from all over the world, from Greek key-shaped patterns to cloud motifs from ancient China.
George Condo: Expanded Portrait Compositions
27 March to 6 April
In the midst of the hubbub of various new gallery openings in Hong Kong this month, one particularly hotly anticipated joint show is instead supported by two heavyweight international galleries: Skarstedt (New York and London) and Sprueth Magers (Berlin, London, Los Angeles). Presenting the first major solo exhibition of American artist George Condo in Hong Kong, the show will take over the Hong Kong Maritime Museum with his signature warped faces and stunning, gnarly portraits. The show will reveal eight new paintings on canvas and five new works on paper, and fans of his work will be able to relish in his unique combination of drawing and painting.
A Beast, a God and a Line
17 March to 20 May
“A Beast, a God and a Line” has a busy itinerary this year: after travelling from the Dhaka Art Summit in February to Para Site Hong Kong this March, the exhibition will then visit contemporary arts space TS1 Yangon in June before its closing show at the Museum of Modern Art Warsaw from July to October. The roving ensemble exhibition reflects the blurred geographic borders the work is concerned with; woven together by the eclectic ideas passed around and shared from all over the region. With a spotlight on textile histories and the ways nationalism and religion are expressed, the exhibition interrogates our current understanding of geographical borders and the gradual return to indigenous beliefs.