Hong Kong (AFP) – From murals made famous by Instagram to painting battles, Hong Kong’s once largely underground street art scene has exploded in recent years, and is now blossoming across the city’s walls and alleyways.
The commercial high end of the art world is at the fore in March, with gallerists, collectors and celebrities descending on Hong Kong for the annual Art Basel fair.
But English mural artist Dan Kitchener, drawn to the city’s unique geography and energy, made his third visit to Hong Kong this month to depict atmospheric urban scenes with spray paint in its narrow and steep streets.
“Hong Kong’s got that feel to me — the epic scale and the skyscrapers, and then it’s got these little tiny alleyways,” Kitchener told AFP while balancing on bamboo scaffolding as he painted on the outside wall of a city bar.
Trained for many years in watercolour and acrylic painting, 43-year-old Kitchener is particularly fond of portraying neon lights, reflections and rain — sights that first captivated him in Tokyo.
He had just finished a detailed mural of a street market in the bustling Wan Chai district, before moving on to paint outside a watering hole in downtown Central.
Just opposite the bar is a mural by graffiti artist Alex Croft said to be the city’s most photographed wall, featuring rows of old townhouses on a bright blue background.
Hong Kong lacks a world-class art museum and marquee exhibitions rarely make a stop in the southern Chinese city, where it can be difficult to secure permission for public shows.
But street art has enjoyed a boost from growing demand in Asia and an increasing number of exhibitions in recent years, giving it a higher profile and more commercial spin in the city.
In 2015 a mosaic of 1970s American cartoon character Hong Kong Phooey by French artist Invader sold at auction in Hong Kong for HK$2 million ($258,000).
The popular piece of street art had been destroyed by the city’s authorities, infuriating residents, and was later recreated for sale.