There are over 300 buildings built by the Chinachem Group in Hong Kong, most notorious among which are the Lily in Repulse Bay (the one that looks like a giant urinal) and the Nina Tower in Tsuen Wan (vague resemblance to a humungous electric beard trimmer). However, Nina Wang's company also owns plenty of less flashy edifices, and I have noticed that a few of these are adorned with a mysterious symbol:
To me, it looks like a bottle of cologne sprouting monster teeth... perfectly in keeping with Chinachem's big bathroom architectural style.
Remember doing rubbings as a kid? Tree bark, leaves, or pennies, equipped with a pencil or wax crayon? Well, in the Hong Kong museum world, the art of rubbing is institutionalised, and it's quite common to arrive at a pedagogical 'now it's your turn' room at the end of the exhibit, which you'll see is not just for the little ones!
Here are some textures I tried my hand at recently, ranging from the first to the twenty-first century:
Memories of King Kowloon exhibition ArtisTree, Taikoo place, until 31 May
- Very complete retrospective of an idiosyncratic and legendary HK street artist, highly recommended.
Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum
Cheung Sha Wan, permanent
- 2000-year-old tomb, the oldest piece of architecture you can see in Hong Kong (if I am not mistaken).
You can also go to Hong Kong Museum of Art for more hands-on rubbing fun. Its pemanent display also has paper-embossing devices if you want to take your textural kicks to the next level.
The SCMP reported this week on a botched attempt to remove three water buffalo from Mui Wo, Lantau Island. The buffalo are considered to be a danger after a man was injured by one in March. Residents are divided over the issue, with buffalo supporters arguing that there is plenty of space and that since the buffalo are wetland animals, the marshlands around Mui Wo are an ideal environment for them.
Different varieties of feral cattle of can be seen all over rural Hong Kong, from Lantau to Sai Kung and as far as Tap Mun. In my experience, never have these lovely animals felt threatning; they seem to lead their lives very peacefully alongside the local people. To me, the countryside would not be the same without them. See what you think:
EXTRA, EXTRA! For the month of May, I am the Hong Kong contributor for Pen & Image, an online art magazine project: an art response to a different randomly generated word every 24 hours by 4 contributors around the world. Go and see!
Today was the last day of a lego exhibition at Cityplaza, Taikoo Shing. The detailed and entertaining lego models featured world landmarks, fantasy scenes and tourist attractions in Hong Kong. Here, for instance, is the ten-thousand Buddhas temple in lego:
Compare with the original:
Incidentally, at the ten-thousand Buddhas temple you can also see non-buddhist Chinese shrines, such as this one featuring a larger-than life Guan Yu statue:
and here is his lego counterpart at the exhibition (part of a special Three Kingdoms set):
If you ever wander though the older districts of the city, you may have spotted large white-on-red lettering posted in windows or on banners across shop fronts and buildings.
I have started noticing more and more of these in my neighbourhood over the past few months. The red phone numbers seem to be creeping across the facades of tong lau (old walk-up) buildings like a fungus. Some of the signs sport a big, cog-shaped logo too.
Unfortunately, it's not the rotary club. It is the doing of 田生地產 (Richfield Realty), an acquisition company. These companies buy up flats in old HK buildings in order to eventually sell the building to property developers. In buildings over 50 years old, if a company buys up 80% of the flats, the remaining 20% of the building's homeowners can be forced to sell by law. This explains the spread of red.
Branch office in Quarry Bay
田生地產's prominent advertising is upsetting a lot of people. The proliferation of large signs can make residents uneasy about the security of their homes and put pressure on owners to sell. They can also scare off potential buyers by giving the impression that the building is 'doomed'.
Slogans, like the one on this banner in Shau Kei Wan contribute to this atmosphere: Richfield congratulates the landlords of this building who have already received the payment for their flat.
田生地產 has been accused of more underhand pressure tactics, too, as Christopher DeWolf describes in this article. I won't go into these here; suffice it to say that company denies the claims and explains on its website that its ultimate goal is to serve the community.
To me, these red flags are yet another sign of the frantic pace of Hong Kong's urban renewal.