By Carmel Yang and Raphael Erhart
As the city braced for Hong Kong Art Week in March, a sizeable crowd wrapped around a block on Queen’s Road Central. The line was for the public showing of H Queen’s, a new self-described art and lifestyle building located in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial district.
The 24-storey high-rise developed by Henderson Land Development is the city’s first property designed specifically for art galleries. Lead architect William Lim, of CL3, said he hopes it will bring more of an art scene to the Central district.
Lim first proposed the building to Henderson some five-and-a-half years ago. “Around that time, there were galleries coming to Hong Kong; it was difficult to find space,” so many moved into office buildings. “It was a difficult thing to visit these galleries on weekends.”
The new building attempts to solve two problems for high-end galleries in Hong Kong: access to spaces that can fit large works of art, and a presence located in the city centre.
Each floor has 4,000 to 5,000 square feet and the nearly five-meter high ceilings are a direct reaction to the low ceilings that hampered galleries looking for space in Central. The building is fitted with an external gondola system and large windows to allow tenants to hoist artworks in from the outside.
“I really like the building. I come from banking, so I’ve been in buildings like this before but I’ve never been in a building like this whose purpose is to show art,” said Henrietta Tsui-Leung, founder of the Hong Kong-based Galerie Ora-Ora.
“It’s great to be in the same building with other galleries: [David] Zwirner, Pace, us, that’s great,” said Marc Payot, vice president and partner in the Swiss-based gallery Hauser & Wirth. “The quality of not only the building but also the rooms and the location are unique here in Hong Kong.”
However, some tenants have found it difficult to move their large-sized artworks into the building, whose elevators are too small for some of the big pieces. The gondola system works, they say, but wait times for city permits to use it can be long, and it must be operated in the middle of the night after traffic has left the streets below.
“They’ve got the gondola system, which is available around two times a month for all of the galleries,” Tsui-Leung said. “So we changed how we bring in the work by framing the paintings on location.”
A spokeswoman for H Queen’s said at least five tenants had used the gondola system “with satisfactory feedback.” She confirmed that city permits were required in order to use it, but said the building management had provided them with several contractors to help coordinate the permitting process.
H Queen’s is just a few blocks from the historic Pedder Building, which in recent years has seen an influx of high-end galleries wanting to open in Central. Ben Brown Fine Arts, the first gallery to move to Pedder, was drawn to its high ceilings and accessible stairways and lifts managing director Amanda Hon said. With seven galleries in the building now, there is currently no more gallery space available.
Ora-Ora’s Tsui-Leung said her move to H Queen’s has not only increased her gallery’s exposure to the public, bringing in around 100 people on a typical Saturday, but also increased her network to include more galleries from around the world. For artists, she said, the advantage is clear: “Visibility.”
This story is published as part of CJC Fellowship 2018 with the support from Swire Properties’ ArtisTree at Taikoo Place and MG Interactive.