I’ll admit that I was nervous walking to the Hong Kong Art Fair (HKART). It was a ten-minute walk through the Wan Chai District, passing by corner stores, small restaurants and rich car dealerships. Then I reached the imposing building stretching out into Hong Kong´s glistening neon harbor.
HKART was even more impressive: a five-day exhibition with 80,000 visitors and about 250 selected galleries… these were quite some numbers. Especially for someone who likes to sneak around at night and hang up his tape art with a small group of friends.
It’s strange to attend such an event as something like an attraction, to get a pass and be personally guided through a giant building. When I entered the art hall it smelled like fresh wood, oil paints and plastic wrap. I bumped into people I only read about in fine art magazines, and everywhere I heard the sound of power drills, hammers, workers yelling and gallery owners preparing for the big show.
These impressive environment also came with the bitter smack of commerce: Art behind walls, protected by guards, tamed, framed and made pretty. And there would be moments in the following days when I felt like a domesticated animal, too, degraded to an attraction in a zoo… an artist brought in from the streets to be watched and to be touched.
But looking back I like to think that we all could change some children´s life for the better with the money raised. And I hope there were kids at the art fair who could experience that art is something you can get close to, touch, smell and check out for yourself… and not only as kids dragged around and forced to stare at enclosed paintings.
Sovereign Art Foundation had come up with the idea to lay out a couple of hundred pens in their booth for any child wanting to sketch on the floor, the walls, and – occasionally – also my pants. What followed was a five day let´s-paint-the-shit-out-of-whatever-is-in-reach marathon, and within hours the entire stand looked like battle grounds for a graffiti war.
It was fantastic to be in the middle of this, to work on my light box while kids painted around me. Many of them also helped me peel and stick pieces of tape, unafraid of making mistakes or bad style or not following instructions. And thus, amidst the chic art world around then, they brought a good piece of welcomed anarchy.