Hong Kong’s first ever contemporary art museum, privately owned and funded.
In 2012, Birch was gifted a 4 floor, 9,000 square foot building in the heart of Central Hong Kong. Birch’s ambitious plan was to take the former car park, a dirty, weathered old space and transform it into stunning contemporary art museum. It would have been Hong Kong’s first ever. The artist was able to raise money privately and personally to pay for the renovation and with the pro-bono support of local architects, KplusK, drawings were completed and renovation began. Though it was understood re-zoning of industrial space is practically impossible in Hong Kong, there is a way to activate such space for alternative use, a temporary license that would be renewed regularly.
After the green light from various departments, things looked good as the space was cleared out, whitewashed, electrics installed as well as lighting and floors. The next major renovation would be the stripping of the exterior to create a glass cube, so all inside would be visible from the street. Discussions were already happening about content and human resources locally and abroad.
Hong Kong currently has no such art space, the pressure to pay rent is so acute that no-one could afford to make such a bold move. For such a wealthy city, it is sadly lacking in the basics necessary to provide an art platform. Though there are now brand name international galleries and Art Basel once a year, emerging artists still struggle to show their work and even established artists have few opportunities.
The space, Kong, was supposed to be the missing link, a space with no rent to pay, for experimental work, installation, emerging artists, performance, lectures, or whatever we felt like! With no commercial pressure, Kong could have been a huge boost to the local art scene and a saviour to many local artists who have no opportunity to show work, as well as to international artists who could run riot in a space with no financial pressure.
Sadly the project has come to a halt as one government department, Lands Department, has objected to the temporary use of the space to show art works. Therefore, for now, the space is in limbo. Birch has not completely given up and lawyers are attempting to appeal and we are attempting to engage with district council members to support the project. But with Birch so busy in NYC and London, for now, the space remains a very nicely decorated car park…!