Hearty Chats with Stakeholders
Louis & Lars share WKCD updates on Phase 1 Development

exhibitionLittle commonality can be said between Louis Yu Kwok-lit and Dr Lars Nittve: They are different in size and age and they probably have a different taste in art and food, except they share an easy-to-remember first name with the same symbol that begins with a capital “L” and ends with “s”.

A closer look though reveals that they carry the same attitude towards stakeholders, whom the two West Kowloon Cultural District Authority executive directors are spending hours every day to communicate and engage.

And that is why the head of Performing Arts and the head of Visual Arts joined hands together to host roundtables with local art stakeholders to share their visions on the future art and cultural hub.

In a four-episode series with Hong Kong Economic Journal, the duo offered an update of the WKCD progress ahead of its upcoming Public Engagement exercise (PE3), which is to showcase Phase One development plan at the end of September.

After their months of discussing with stakeholders, the first phase of development is likely to incorporate most stakeholders’ feedback about what they like to have in the district. One such example is Xiqu Centre, along with small-scale concert halls and theatre centers, which Louis promises to make a case for the Phase One inclusion.

In a roundtable with dramatist Mr Fredric Mao Chun-fai and musician Mr Kung Chi-shing, Louis envisaged the cultural district to include new concepts such as Live House (live music in restaurant), centre for anchor art groups, creative education centre, a 200-seat to 300-seat venue and a mini-theatre.

“West Kowloon Cultural District will not just be the venue for hall of fame performances, but should also be pluralistic by nature,” said Louis. “I hope to see seven to eight performances or street shows on a weekend or weekday evening when it operates.”

A major difference he aspires to make, according to Louis, is a long-term commitment to artists. Currently most artists can only secure short term lease of space to display their works.

exhibitionIn another roundtable with Dr Liza Wang, Chairwoman of the Chinese Artist Association of Hong Kong (CAAHK), and Mr Ip Sai-hung, Head of RTHK Radio 5, Louis revealed that the Xiqu Centre would likely be located near Canton Road and the neighbouring old areas.

Carrying hopes to lift and extend the spirit of Sunbeam Theatre in North Point, a landmark for showing Cantonese Opera, the Xiqu Centre should serve to preserve and promote the valuable traditional Chinese art form, according to Louis, who promises the Centre will have specific spaces for  professional Xiqu training and education activities.

“Xiqu Centre is not just a theatre, nor an archive for traditional arts,” said Yu. “It would not be a place for tourists to watch spear kicking because that might otherwise miss the whole point – Xiqu Centre is mainly for local audience.”

The Xiqu Centre is to include a 1,100-seat large theatre, a 400-seat small theatre, and a 200-seat tea house decorated in traditional style, where the audience would be served tea and snacks while enjoying traditional Chinese cultural performances.

Equally iconic would be M+, the main centre for Visual Culture at West Kowloon, in the first phase of development.

But  “Who will be M+’s audience?” was the first and foremost question for Lars at the roundtable with Mr Johnson Chang, founding director of Hanart TZ Gallery and Ms Phoebe Wong, Head of Research at Asia Art Archive.

Lars said Hong Kong people had been showing their interests as well as curiosity in the art, most exemplified by the successful Hong Kong Art Fair that drew 20,000 visitors a day and Fotanian Open Studio that attracted ten of thousand arts lovers.

exhibition “What is happening now is like an iPad moment,” said Lars. “iPad is a thing that no one was longing for before. But once they get one in their hands and try, almost everybody wants it, and actually like it!

“If you do things right for the museum, you can create the same situation.” 

Lars outlined three near-term tasks for M+ that includes fine tuning the program for the future architectural competition for the museum, working out the most suitable governance mode for M+ and forming an acquisition committee to oversee the acquisition of M+ collections.

Stay tuned for Lars’ second episode on M+ is scheduled to be published on August 2nd at Hong Kong Economic Journal.