Cover Johnson Chang and Frog King (Photo: Affa Chan/Tatler Hong Kong)

The Hong Kong art community backs Asia Art Archive's 'Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys' and 'Ink City' in Tai Kwun

The loyalty and dedication of the Hong Kong art community during a year of pandemic challenges started paying off in April, as exhibitions and gallery events began to flood diaries once more. On April 22, Asia Art Archive (AAA) opened Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys, an exhibition inspired by the extensive personal archive of the Hong Kong artist Ha Bik-chuen that is being hosted at Tai Kwun until August 1.

Curated by former AAA researcher Michelle Wong, the exhibition features ten “sets”, which together showcase the evolution of Hong Kong’s culture and history. Five of the sets feature new pieces from artists Banu Cennetoğlu, Kwan Sheung-chi, Lam Wing-sze, Raqs Media Collective and Walid Raad, who were each commissioned to produce pieces that related to Ha’s archive.

Portals, Stories and Other Journeys has been an epic journey that has stopped and started with every wave of the pandemic,” said Claire Hsu, AAA’s co-founder and executive director, during her opening speech to a packed room of art-lovers as well as Ha’s son and daughter, Alex Ha and Dorothy Ha.

See also: Claire Hsu On Asia Art Archive's Upcoming Exhibition At Tai Kwun—And What's Next For The Organisation

“We’re truly thrilled to be able to share this with you on the 20th anniversary of the AAA. For the past seven years, we have been digitising and making accessible the incredible treasure trove of archives from Ha Bik-chuen who, over five decades, documented the development of contemporary art in the city. He believed in the necessity of archives for art history, research and education, but also for their creative potential. This exhibition is a journey of a city and it has been many years of work.”

Self-taught Ha was known for his prints, sculptures and collage books, as well as for being a noted photographer. The archive he left behind after his death in 2009 includes personal documentation of exhibitions he attended from the Sixties until the 2000s in the form of negatives, contact sheets, magazines and photo albums. Ha’s vast archive of work paints a colourful picture of Hong Kong’s cultural history, through a fastidious method of collecting and organising that blurs the lines between documentation and art.

In the next room, another exhibition, Ink City, this one curated by Katherine Don and Tai Kwun’s own Tobias Berger, opened at the same time. Idiosyncratic artist Frog King, aka Kwok Mang-ho, entertained the room with an attention-grabbing performance in which he banged on kitchen crockery with a wooden spoon while weaving between the works of art on display, including paintings by local stars such as Wilson Shieh, Lam Tung-pang and the late Luis Chan, as well as an installation by Frog King himself. The evening was a celebration of Hong Kong’s homegrown creativity and, for a moment in time at least, it felt like the city was back to normal.

See also: The Man Behind The Mask: A Look Inside The Life Of Performance Artist Frog King