Still marked on the world map as a finance hub, Hong Kong is not widely renowned for its arts scene. But with the recent emergence of, and investment in, projects of a more imaginative nature, the face of the city seems to be changing its traditionally staid expression. We spoke to the founder of a brand new co-working space for creatives about his alternative and distinctly colourful vision for Hong Kong.
With the wildly popular PMQ marketplace, the exclusively cool Bibo art restaurant, the HKWalls street art festival and hipster hangout Ping Pong 129 all debuting in Hong Kong this year, it’s safe to say that pockets of innovation are steadily popping up in amongst the yarn bombing, community art projects, international exhibitions and live jams. But unlike business start-ups that can take watchful flight from the featured nesting grounds of the city’s many co-working centres, artists have been largely left to their own devices…until now.
Available for pop-up shops, fashion shows, photography shoots and general office space, Puerta del Sol is a brand new open workspace aimed firmly at creatives. Located in Chai Wan, Hong Kong’s unofficial centre for grass roots art, the 3,000 square-foot New York-style loft runs under the slogan, “Open Doors, Open Minds”, and hopes to foster exactly that mentality.
French-born photographer Harold de Puymorin, who set up the centre with his Spanish partners and named it after Madrid’s main square, is looking to bring a sense of European imagination and collaboration to the east side of Hong Kong Island.
“Hong Kong is a city where people help others, and if you’re willing to make things happen, you form alliances. It works every time. It’s super encouraging and very positive,” Harold told Localiiz.
Having quit his job in telecoms to set up his first business, HDP Photography, in September last year, Harold knows all about the thrills and trials of pursuing an art-based career in Asia’s ‘Golden Egg’ city. Splitting his work into commercial and fine art categories, he pays the bills by bringing his networking, project management and business development skills to corporate and event photography assignments, while nurturing his inner artiste with work of his own conception.
Completely self-taught, Harold mastered his trade simply by wandering the streets of Hong Kong and photographing everything that caught his eye. From this blank canvas has come three powerful but markedly diverse collections: CityStreet Life, a series of untouched street scenes illustrating the poetry and genuine spirit of Hong Kong; Inception, digitally modified, ‘flipped’ photographs turning architecture into abstract art; and Crayons, a colourful close-up project using a secret technique to make photos appear as if painted.
Talking about his work, Harold said, “It’s sharpened my vision to be in Hong Kong because it’s been photographed so much, and it’s very hard to be original. I wanted to get away from the typical skyline pictures we’ve all seen a billion times and start shooting what reflects my personality and how I feel about Hong Kong.”
While there’s undeniably still a long way to go before Hong Kong joins the likes of Madrid and Paris on the world’s art radar, Harold is impressed by the progress he’s seen since first relocating here four years ago, and hopes Puerta del Sol will help somewhat sustain and increase that momentum.
“In recent years I’ve seen Hong Kong get more sophisticated and artistic in general, in shops, restaurants and on the streets. You can’t say Hong Kong is pure finance now. Everything is changing and people aren’t scared to be entrepreneurs and break the mould. That’s very healthy and makes the city more dynamic, creative and fluid.”