Header image courtesy of @arceciandrea (via Instagram)
Like any other cultural metropolis, Hong Kong has its fair share of galleries, revitalised historical buildings, and art pop-ups and exhibitions. As much as we enjoy the comfort of being within the four walls of a dedicated art space, there are a surprising number of obscure spots where you can come face to face with creativity. From the alleyways of an offshore island to murals hiding right in plain sight, here are some of our favourite art and mural villages in Hong Hong to discover community-driven folk art and underrated local masterpieces.
As part of the old leather factory on the serene island of Peng Chau, My Secret Garden is an organised mess of flotsam and jetsam sitting alongside an array of spirited graffiti and quirky upcycled installations. Collected over the years by Sherry Lau, a long-time resident of the island, the overlooked materials are given new life and shaped into unique pieces like the towering stack of painted chairs and gang of modified bicycle frames.
Once home to the Fook Yuen Leather Factory—established in 1936 during Peng Chau’s manufacturing boom in leather goods as well as quicklime and matches—the structure has since been listed as a Grade III historical building. Artworks displayed in the open-air area are switched out monthly, making for delightful surprises on each return visit.
If you are looking to chill for a while longer, 100 Years Café right by the alleyway entry to My Secret Garden is exactly the refreshment-peddling pit-stop to refuel and rest at.
My Secret Garden and Leather Factory, 27 Wing On Street, Peng Chau
Formerly a cattle barn and slaughterhouse, this organised hamlet was converted by the Hong Kong government into a dedicated artist space back in 2001. Operating as a workspace that can house up to around 20 artist groups, the Grade II historic village consists of five red-bricked blocks where live performances, screenings, concerts, seminars, workshops, and rehearsals take place, whilst also sporadically serving as the backdrop to book fairs and art festivals. Notable dwellers include the eccentric Frog King, the avant-garde new media troupe Videotage, and contemporary art incubator 1a Space.
Open to the public for the most part, with different happenings taking place around the units, stroll in for a gander at the beautifully conserved architecture and rampant artwork. You might even notice some details from the venue’s former slaughterhouse days, like the preserved shackles on the studio floors and green window frames and beams. Integrated into the adjacent plot is the Cattle Depot Art Park, which also carries a series of elements in homage to the location’s past, in addition to a swathe of peaceful greenery.
Cattle Depot Art Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Road, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2364 2959
Other than taking the crown as one of Hong Kong’s prime sunset sites, Ha Pak Nai also houses a hidden trail that combines natural wonders with art. Planted along the strip of Nim Wan Road are paintings created by a trio of artists—who also happen to be sisters—called Chemiyan. Begin from Sergeant Arnall Memorial for an hour-long walk that ends before the Ap Chai Wan seaside, making for a prelude to golden hour or a post-hike cooldown.
Using recycled insulation boards and drawing inspiration from their surroundings, affectionate brushstrokes depict dreamy landscapes and compelling creatures are dedicated to the message of loving our ecosystem, with hope of promoting environmental conservation efforts. For some grub and relaxation, make your way to the nearby App Store Café and Barbecue, where you will find cosy wooden cabins in vibrant colours and gorgeous murals by Chemiyan, giving off an ambience akin to exotic resorts in the tropics.
283A Nim Wan Road, Ha Pak Nai, Yuen Long
A public art project launched in the heart of Tuen Mun, the Viva! River project founded by the Art Promotion Office and art group Apohere aims to liven up the neighbourhood with vibrant art. Consisting of a collection that features six bespoke artworks by a handful of artists and groups, the riverside now features a variety of tactile sculptures and installations that have been interwoven into the existing fabric of the community.
Beginning from Hung Kiu Bridge and stretching all the way to the nearby Tin Hau Temple Plaza, get up close and become mesmerised by the explosion of colours and intriguing constructions that come in the form of reimagined settees, crochet-covered stoneware, and a beguiling ping pong table. If the district is too far of a trip for your liking, you can also check out the artwork through the official virtual reality tour here.
Tuen Mun Park, Tuen Mun Heung Sze Wui Road, Tuen Mun
A well-maintained walled area with rich traditions, Kam Tin is the place to go to for a glimpse into local culture that bridges centuries-long indigenous history with slices of simple living. Plastered across walls, shutters, and fences are hand-painted murals depicting everything from surreal renderings of village life to adorable scenes of cheeky cats. Sponsored by paint company Dulux, with support from the Hong Kong Teachers Dream Fund, the artistic endeavour was the brainchild of local art teacher Jess Kwok.
What makes these murals special is not only that they are absolutely stunning or that they show unbelievable talent from young students, but the walls also emanate with Kwok and the painters’ immense adoration and reverence for their community. Kwok had believed in bringing together the people of Kam Tin, and has done just that with flying colours. For a look at these fantastic artworks first-hand, follow our map here.
Created by the community much like Kam Tin’s mural village, the motivations behind Ping Che’s murals are coloured with a less rose-tinted lens. In the upper reaches of Sheung Shui, this lively village was once at risk of redevelopment by the government’s Northeast New Territories Development Plan, which led to the ingenious strategy of covering up the area with artwork to allow residents to protect their homes. With support from NGO Voltra, the process started in 2014. Volunteers were enlisted both locally and internationally.
The beginning of the route is marked by colourful signs as well as the Cheuk Wing Kee Store, which has a delightful shopfront decorated in bold red lanterns and windchimes. Both point towards the cluster of painted over houses just waiting to be explored.
Stroll through the alleys and discover the hand-painted murals contrasted against the anachronistic Chan Ancestral Hall nearby. If you are feeling brave, take a detour for a look at the now-desolate Ping Yeung Public School on the other fork of the road from Cheuk Wing Kee Store, which, up until 2007, had hosted 400 students at a time.
Ping Che Mural Village, Ping Yeung Chuen, 157 Ping Yuen Road, Ta Kwu Ling, Sheung Shui
Housed in a Grade II historic building that used to serve as the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s clubhouse, Oi! Art Space is a continuation of the original Oil Street Artist Village. Managed by the Art Promotion Office, it functions like an incubation space for artists to experiment freely. With its red-bricked walls, stucco exterior, and interior curvatures, the building itself is a sight to behold, along with the various exhibitions and shows within.
Oi! Oil Street Art Space, 12 Oil Street, North Point | (+852) 2512 3000
Note: Oi! Art Space may be temporarily closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.