The Cultural Wonders of West Kowloon
By Charlotte Flach - 5 minute read
Following the recent opening of the Hong Kong Palace Museum this July, Charlotte Flach explores the world class art that West Kowloon is being increasingly celebrated for.
Stretching across 40 hectares of reclaimed land, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world. It has established itself as a leading destination for arts and culture.
At the western tip of the West Kowloon Cultural District, something special is getting ready to wow tourists and locals alike. The Hong Kong Palace Museum debuted this month, housing exceptional pieces from The Palace Museum in Beijing and other great art institutions from around the globe.
Setting its sights high, the museum is aspiring to become one of the world’s leading cultural institutions, and has a special commitment to the study and appreciation of Chinese art and culture.
“What’s the story of West Kowloon? It’s the people’s lives. The dynamicity, the vibrance,” says historian and director of the Hong Kong Palace Museum Dr Louis Ng.
Ng thinks the district’s museums have a duty not just to preserve and showcase history, but to enrich it as well. By working with local artists and designers, a connection with the local community is formed. “To me, what is most important is that the art piece can touch people’s hearts and minds,” Ng adds.
The Hong Kong Palace Museum has over 900 priceless treasures, many of which are on display in Hong Kong for the first time, while others have never been shown to the public before. It will regularly present special exhibitions featuring Chinese art and culture, as well as art and treasures from other parts of the world.
Some current and upcoming exhibitions include The Making of Masterpieces: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Palace Museum, spanning 30 early treasures of Chinese painting and calligraphy; and From Dawn to Dusk: Life in the Forbidden City which follows in the footsteps of the emperors and empresses of the Forbidden City to experience court life in the eighteenth century.
For those who prefer something more contemporary, No Boundaries: Reinterpreting Palace Museum Culture, invites six Hong Kong-based multimedia and interdisciplinary artists to create new works and interpret the art and culture of the Forbidden City from a fresh perspective.
The West Kowloon Cultural District is already renowned for its world-class museums and galleries. These include M+, Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture which features collections spanning 20th and 21st -century visual art, design and architecture, moving image and Hong Kong visual culture. Opened in November 2021, its iconic facade is a piece of art in its own right. Lighting up nightly, thousands of LEDs project a mixture of performative screenings and cinematic sequences, visible up to 1.5km away.
The building boasts a massive 17,000 square metres of exhibition space across 33 galleries, three cinema houses, the Mediatheque, LearningHub, and Roof Garden that faces Victoria Harbour. The garden and museum’s waterfront location make it a prime spot to watch the world go by or take in the panoramic view.
With its open green spaces where visitors can relax, play, or picnic on the lawns, beautiful sunsets can also be enjoyed along the waterfront promenade. Vibrant open-air performances, exhibitions and street entertainment are commonplace, complemented by gourmet food trucks amid multiple restaurants and cafes.
Pets are welcome to visit with their owners, or take a break with them in the shade of the Competition Pavillion. SmartBikes open up the park’s pathways for exploration, with plenty of opportunities to capture IG-worthy images of the unobstructed views of one of the world’s most iconic skylines.
Nestled in the heart of the Art Park, Hong Kong’s centre for contemporary performance spans multiple genres across its performances and events. Freespace showcases up and coming as well as established artists from both Hong Kong and around the world, pushing artistic boundaries and championing creative exchange.
Hong Kong’s largest black box theatre, The Box, also lives here, alongside Lau Bak Livehouse — an intimate bar and performance space with live music and cultural events on the weekends. A full menu of delicious food, cocktails and craft beer means visitors won’t go hungry or thirsty.
On the east side, stands the Xiqu Centre, an award-winning venue dedicated to the preservation of the art of Chinese traditional theatre. Its speciality is showcasing and nurturing Hong Kong’s unique form of Cantonese Opera. Its dramatic facade- which appears to undulate as the sunset reflects off it- is worth the visit alone.
Along with two theatres, the centre also includes a contemporary cha chaan teng, where visitors can sample traditional Hong Kong style milk teas. Plus there’s the Moon Lok Chinese Restaurant showcasing world-class productions of Cantonese opera and other regional forms of Chinese opera (xiqu), perfect for first timers. Expect elaborate costumes and awe-inspiring make-up as you experience one of the region’s finest traditional art forms.