The graffiti scene in Hong Kong is relatively new, but there are some great artists in the city. Most of the graffiti in the streets are simple tags (signatures) or throw-ups (these are fairly simple filled-outline works), however, there are a few places where you can see more elaborate works. in different districts, different styles and format predominate. You can preview some of the more representative works on this page, and if you are interested in seeing more, you can click on the links provided to see the whole sets
1. Hong Kong Street Art: Mid Autumn Art Jam (Ma On Shan)
This gallery features several graffiti pieces that were created during the moon festival in Hong Kong. Click on any of the below images to open the gallery slideshow. Unfortunately, if you are using Windows XP with Internet Explorer 8, the gallery function may not appear. However, you can still view the entire set of photos in this series (over 140 images) on Google Photos: Hong Kong Graffiti and Street Art Part 6: Mid-Autumn Graffiti.
While taking these photos of this graffiti Wall of Fame in Hong Kong, I spoke to a woman who lived nearby and she told me that all the pieces were done during last year’s Mid-Autumn Festival (at the very end of September). The usual way of celebrating this festival, also known as the Moon Festival, involves family dinners, lanterns and mooncakes; however, last year many of Hong Kong’s graffiti artists gathered to hold an art jam on the wall of a highway overpass that runs just outside the suburban area of Ma On Shan in the New Territories. The location is not difficult to get to but is quite well hidden, so I guess the artists could work uninterrupted. Some of the visuals, such as the rabbit image, are related to the festival (according to Chinese legend, a rabbit lives on the moon with the moon goddess Chang’e. There are around 30 pieces (including wildstyle works) on the wall.
2. Hong Kong Street Art: Graffiti Lane Mongkok
To see the whole set of pictures in this series (over 150, at a resolution of 2048×1365), go to Hong Kong Graffiti Part 1: Complete Set of Images.
To view the following pictures in a slideshow, just click on any of the photos.
This alley near the Mongkok East MTR station has lots of more elaborate pieces in a variety of styles. It’s one of the few places where street art is generally left alone by the authorities (though pieces are painted over by other graffiti artists from time to time). It is also home to a fair number of homeless men who live in make shift cardboard shelters and who have a set up a mini-kitchen with a gas stove. Just around the corner is Argyle street, which is jam-packed with shoppers and tourists. It seems that there is an unspoken deal in place: ‘you can do what you want in this lane, just don’t take it outside’.
3. HK Street Art: Kwun Tong and Ngau Tau Kok
Click on any of the below images to open the gallery slideshow. You can view the entire set of photos in this series (over 150 images) on Google Photos: Hong Kong Graffiti and Street Art Part 2: Kwun Tong and Ngau Tau Kok.
The streets of the industrial areas of Kwun Tong and Ngau Tau Kok feature a lot of graffiti compared to other parts of Hong Kong. The district is an indie culture hot spot. It’s a factory area, but the manufacturing industry declined steeply in the 1980s as mainland China started to embrace capitalism. Factories and, of course, factory jobs moved to China’s Guangdong province. The resulting empty floor space in factory buildings is now being frequently rented out as band practice rooms and art studios.
In the previous series on Mongkok graffiti and street art, almost every photo was taken in one alley—a kind of graffiti gallery. In contrast, the street art work in Kwun Tong and Ngau Tau Kok is spread out through the entire industrial part of the district (basically everything to West of the MTR rail line). It took around four hours to take all the photographs.
There seems to be more stencil work and paste-ups (paper-based work that is done beforehand and then affixed to the wall) in this area of the city.
There is always the question of whether the artwork adds anything or whether it is just visual pollution and vandalism. I especially wonder about how the owners of the small mom-and-pop shops in the area feel when they come to work one morning and find their shutters covered in a hastily-drawn scrawl. The owners struggle hard working long hours to barely make ends meet; I don’t imagine they appreciate the new decorations.
The photos in this set are featured in the following video:
4. Hong Kong Street Art: Causeway Bay, Central, Sheung Wan
You can view the entire set of photos in this series (over 200 images, resolution of 2048×1365) on Google Photos: Hong Kong Graffiti and Street Art Part 3: Causeway Bay to Central.
These street art photos were mainly taken in Causeway Bay (perhaps the busiest shopping area on Hong Island), SOHO (the retail and restaurant area South of Hollywood Road, hence the name, between Central District and Sheung Wan). Because these are such busy areas, with things going on round the clock, the street art is usually done in a hurry—this is why you can only find things like paste-ups, stencils and tags.
A lot of the works provide social commentary. For example, former Chief Executive Donald Tsang is turned into a devil in an Obama-style poster. There are picture-text combinations highlighting poverty and quite a few works condemn greed, which is fitting given that Hong Kong has severe income inequality and that Central is the key financial district of Hong Hong. A few of the paste-ups are from the local artist Start from Zero (www.facebook.com/ratscave.sfz/).
5. Hong Kong Street Art: Mongkok & Tsim Sha Tsui
These are busy commercial and entertainment districts in Kowloon with a nightlife going on round the clock. It’s a challenge for graffiti artists to even find a blank wall yet alone work undetected. Thus, the art tends to be something that can be done in a hurry (tags, stickers or stencils) and is often done in dingy alleyways. There also tends to be a lot of çrazy messages left on utility boxes and lampposts. Can we call these mad ramblings street art?
6. Hong Kong Street Art: The King of Kowloon
Speaking of ramblings, perhaps the first graffiti artist in Hong Kong was thee self-proclaimed Emperor of Kowloon Tsang Chou-choi, who throughout the 1980s and 1990s painted messages in his distinctive Chinese calligraphy claiming that he was the rightful owner of the entire peninsula. At any one time, there were a few hundred of his messages spread around Kowloon. He tended to write on government owned walls and utility boxes, perhaps because he viewed the government as the thieves who stole his family’s land. He died in 2007, and towards the end of his life was considered an artist, with galleries curating exhibitions of his work. However, it took the government a while to realize that his graffiti was part of Hong Kong’s collective memory and by the time they took measure to preserve his work, only three pieces remained. These are now sealed in plastic (the easiest to view one is at the Star Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui). I took the following two pictures mant years ago in Diamond Hill (click on each image for a larger version on Google+).
7. Street Art in Hong Kong: Kowloon City, Kowloon Tong & Cheung Sha Wan
You can find street art scattered in other areas of Kowloon as well. There is some in Kowloon City and quite a few pieces in Kowloon Tong, the latter of which are usually found on walls in the alleys between upscale condominium complexes. Kowloon Tong is an unusual area—it features upper-middle class residences (with an emphasis on the ‘upper’), kindergartens, a couple of universities and a lot of small love hotels. Other photos in this series were taken in Cheung Sha Wan and Lai King.
Click on any of the below images to open the gallery slideshow. You can view the entire set of photos in this series (over 150 images) on Google Photos: Hong Kong Graffiti and Street Art: Around Kowloon.
8. Street Art in the New Territories
This gallery features works from around the Tai Wai, Fotan, Ma On Shan Tai Po and Wu Kai Sha. These are the areas just north of Kowloon (on the other side of Lion Rock). You can find graffiti on factory walls and near bike paths. Click on any picture to view the gallery as a slide show. You can also view the entire set of photos in this series (over 160 images) on Google Photos: Hong Kong Graffiti and Street Art: Around Shatin.
Image Galleries on Google Photos
To view the complete sets of images at higher resolutions, select the click on the following links:
- Mid-Autumn Art Jam 140 images
- Graffiti Alley in Mongkok 150 images
- Kwun Tong & Ngau Tau Kok: Graffiti and Street Art 180 images
- Street Art in Causeway Bay, Central and Sheung Wan
- Street Art in Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui 40 images
- The King of Kowloon 2 images
- Street Art in Kowloon City, Kowloon Tong, Cheung Sha Wan & Lai King 100 images
- Street Art in the New Territories (Shatin, Tai Wai, Fotan, Ma On Shan, Tai Po, Wu Kai Sha) 160 images
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