Taking Street Art off the Street: The street art exhibition “Work in Progress” in Hong Kong

“Is street art still street art when it’s taken off the street and displayed in a gallery setting?” was the question I asked myself when I was heading to see the exhibition “Work in Progress” at Somerset House in Hong Kong’s Island East area. In the loading bay and on the 13th floor of this soon-to-be demolished industrial building, the Hong Kong-based gallery Above Second  managed to assemble the fascinating works of a number of international and local street artists. As a true street art enthusiast, I was instantly intrigued by the prospect of seeing a whole line-up of street artists coming together under one roof nevertheless I didn’t manage to completely forget about my initial question. To me, street art is defined by the following aspects. It is found in the streets, it is for free, it is transient and it is encountered by chance. Could street art that is displayed in a gallery setting hold true to these aspects? Well, the exhibition “Work in Progress” offered new perspectives…

I arrived at Somerset House via the walkway on the first floor. There, I was “greeted” by the stenciled sprayers of street artist Victor Ash on the left hand side of the building and guided down the stairs through the works of Peter Yuill by the “carelessly” splashed yellow paint dots on the ground. These dots led me right into the loading bay area where more great street art on the walls and even on the elevator doors awaited me. Already fascinated, I jumped into one of the industry-sized elevators to be taken to the exhibition space on the 13th floor. The doors opened right onto an amazing piece of work by Portuguese street artist Alexandre Farto aka Vhils. Finally taking my eyes off Vhils’ work, I saw that the whole floor had been stripped down of its interior and was left with its naked walls and concrete floors, adding a “raw” touch to this industrial exhibition space. It was the perfect setting with the perfect surfaces for street art. The “rawness” of the space was further underlined by the slight smell of paint and dust in the air. In this exciting setting the spotlights had an easy job to highlight the works properly and to allow every single piece of street art to work its magic on the viewers.

After spending quite some time at the exhibition, my initial question and my defining aspects popped back into my mind. I came to the conclusion that street art when it is taken off the street might not be street art in the “purest” sense (not in the street, no chance encounter) but that it didn’t matter because it didn’t lose even the slightest bit of its fascination!

At the bottom line, it was a great exhibition in an exciting setting with fascinating works. To everyone who loves street art and happens to be in Hong Kong until July 7th, 2013, “Work in Progress” is a definite must-see!

Practical Information:

WHAT: Street Art exhibition “Work in Progress”

WHERE:  Somerset House (loading bay and 13th floor), TaiKoo Place, 979 King’s Road, Island East, Hong Kong

WHEN: June 17 – July 7, 2013, open 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

WHAT ELSE: Free Admission

Contributing Street Artists:

4Get (Hong Kong), Beastman (Australia), Cannonball Press (USA), Cat Time Biatch (Hong Kong), Cyrcle (USA), Mark Goss (Hong Kong), Meggs (Australia) , Pantone C (Hong Kong), Parent’s Parents (Hong Kong), Peter Yuill (Hong Kong), RONE (Australia), VHILS (Portugal), Victor Ash (Denmark), XEME (Hong Kong)

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