Public Art in the Private City: Control, Complicity and Criticality in Hong Kong

Lara van Meeteren 2  and Bart Wissink 1
  • 1 Department of Public Policy, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 2 , Bangkok, Hong Kong


Responding to Open Philosophy’s call ‘Does public art have to be bad art?’, in this paper we argue that this discussion should pay attention to the consequences of structural transformations that guide the production and presentation of public art in today’s increasingly private city. While entrepreneurial governance and corporate branding strategies generate new opportunities, they might also result in increased risk averseness and control over the content of public art, thus putting its critical potential at risk. That observation ushers in urgent questions about control, complicity and criticality. We aim to reflect on those questions through two public art projects in Hong Kong: Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon (2015) and Our 60-second friendship begins now (2016) by Sampson Wong Yu-hin and Jason Lam Chi-fai. After drawing conclusions on the justification of public funding for co-productions, the legitimacy for artists to sometimes not ‘follow the rules’, and the problematic nature of a narrow definition of professionalism as a means to discredit artists, our analysis underlines the urgent need to develop a framework that can guide discussions on the consequences of control and complicity for the critical potential of public art.

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Open Philosophy is an international Open Access, peer-reviewed academic journal covering all areas of philosophy. The objective of Open Philosophy is to foster free exchange of ideas and provide an appropriate platform for presenting, discussing and disseminating new concepts, current trends, theoretical developments and research findings related to the broadest philosophical spectrum.