Hong Kong Walls: Promoting Street Artists

Concluding the fifth edition of Hong Kong (HK) Walls across Western District, this non-profit organisation provides opportunities for local and international artists to showcase their talent through the medium of street art. With Hong Kong’s art month coming to an end, Art Basel, Art Central, and HK Walls have all showcased various artists and their respective styles.

The accessibility of the HK Walls is what makes it unique, involving public interaction with the art and artists, enabling the art community to grow and further developing the artists’ career. HK Walls intentionally first took place the same week as Art Basel to offer a sort of contrast between art fairs and their exclusive private events, and street art, which is completely free and open to anyone.

Picture 1: Spray paint used for murals. (Photo by Siya Kulkarni)

Jason Dembski, co-founder of HK Walls, revealed that the idea started off with spotting “illegal graffiti on streets, in abandoned buildings, with elaborate pieces that the general public did not get to see.”

“Street art, graffiti, and art, in general, is a form of communication – depending on the artist and his/her motivations. The benefit of street art is that it’s more accessible and in-your-face. Whereas galleries store their art within closed doors. The point of it is to spark discussion, whether the viewer likes it or not,” Dembski said.

He added,  “Our aim is to keep it fresh in the near future, find new artists and come up with newer ways of thinking of art. Primarily to give artists opportunities and work with the exposure they get with the amount of press we get.”

Providing Hong Kong-based artists with an open call each year, HK Walls encourages the involvement of newer, undiscovered artists to showcase their works and network with other established artists.

Riya Chandiramani, a 23-year-old artist participating for the first year, highlights the importance of the concept of being able to make art that becomes “part of the public space, becomes a landmark and part of the community.” When asked about her art, she would describe it as a “graphic yet organic style of visual storytelling,” and “[hates it when] people call [her] art doodling.” Her style may be called unconventionally illustrative, and neither does she fit in with the “typical street artist stereotype, a badass dude with a backpack and spray can.”

Picture 2: Christian Storm (Storm) finishing off his mural outside The Hideout Coffee in Sai Ying Pun. (Photo by Siya Kulkarni)

Another artist, Christian Storm from Denmark, mentions that his interest in art “started off on the illegal side” whereas now he works “commission-based works to fund his interests in street art.” He also adds, “HK Walls, even though it does a great job in promoting street art, failed to get the recognition and funds it deserves.”

Breaking stereotypes is what makes HK Walls different, in its inclusion of unconventional artists providing exposure for artists of all sorts to promote themselves on this public platform. The foundation of this non-profit organisation brings out new talents while also constructing a culture and network in itself.

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