Hong Kong’s Morris Hill neighborhood, dominated by government buildings and schools, is usually sleepy on weekends. Today, the gray, overcast sky adds to the stillness of the quiet Sunday morning, but the freshly painted walls are riotous and colorful, bursting with dynamic energy. Recently the city welcomed over 40 artists to participate in the week-long street art festival HKWalls, which is now in its 6th year. The paintings range from multi-story murals on major streets to human-scale paintings in side alleys. Some are abstract, some are hyperrealistic, some feature wallpaper-like floral patterns, and one even has a crocheted design woven into a chain-link fence.
香港的摩理臣山街区遍布政府大楼和学校，因而在周末往往显得静谧安祥。今天，灰蒙蒙的天空增添了星期天早晨的宁静，但新粉刷的墙壁五彩缤纷，充满了活力。最近，香港邀请了 40 多位艺术家参加为期一周的街头艺术节“HKWalls”，这已经是它走过的第六个年头了。这些画从大街上的墙绘到小巷中的人像画，应有尽有。抽象的、具象的、像墙纸一样的大花的，都有，还有一个甚至有编织成栅栏样的钩编设计。
The festival coincides every year with Art Basel Hong Kong, the Asian-edition of one of the world’s most famous art festivals. Street art and graffiti have long been a mainstay of Miami’s Art Basel, but until recently they were entirely unrepresented here. And that gap provided an opening for three enterprising people to create HKWalls.
“One day while drinking at a local bar, I was bitching about the kind of events street artists were being asked to do,” says Jason Dembski, who runs HKWalls along with his wife Maria Wong and partner Stan Wu. “It was like these people would hear graffiti or street art was cool and that it would make their party cool. They didn’t care about the art at all. So me and Stan were like, why not just start our own event? We decided it had to be around the time of Art Basel, or Art HK as it was called then. That’s when all the art is happening, and there’s nothing graffiti- or street art-related, so we saw a gap. And the parties are all about being on the list and VIP access, so we wanted to throw something anyone could come to.”
They went ahead and put together a small first event, collecting in-kind donations like some clothing, a few dozen cans of spray paint for the artists, and some beer—just enough to make it happen without spending too much money. And while only about a dozen artists participated in that first iteration and mainly worked on street-level pieces, it got a lot of attention because of how novel it was.
Jason Dembski 和妻子 Maria Wong 及搭档 Stan Wu 一起经营着 HKWalls，“有一天我在当地的酒吧里喝酒，正好在抱怨街头艺术家被请去参加的活动形式，就好像是人们觉得听到涂鸦和街头艺术很酷，所以请他们现身会让他们的派对更酷。那些活动举办方的人们一点也不关心艺术。所以我和 Stan 就想，为什么不开始我们自己的活动呢？我们决定它必须是大约在香港巴塞尔艺术展的时候，当时还叫 Art HK。那时候，所有的艺术形式都在发生，却没有涂鸦或街头艺术相关的，我们因此看到了一个缺口。而且派对都是关于邀请媒体和重要人物的访问，所以我们想提出一些任何人都可以参加的东西。”
HKWalls has since exploded in size and notoriety, but Dembski, Wong, and Wu still make cultivating local talent a priority. One-third of the artists are always locally based, another third are from around Asia, and the rest are from overseas. They also try to encourage Hong Kong artists who haven’t explored mural painting to give it a shot, since the scene is so small. Dembski estimates that there are about 40 people actively doing illegal street art or graffiti in the city, and another 20 to 50 artists who frequently work on sanctioned murals. Each year they try and move the festival around to different neighborhoods in order not to paint over too many pieces from previous years.
自那时起，HKWalls 在规模和知名度上都出现了爆炸式增长，但 Jason 和妻子 Maria 及 Stan Wu 仍然把培养本地人才作为首要任务。三分之一的艺术家总是在当地工作，另外三分之一来自亚洲，其余的来自海外。他们还试图鼓励那些没有探索墙绘涂鸦的香港艺术家们去尝试一下，因为这个圈子太小了。Jason 估计，在这座城市里，大约有 40 人在积极地从事非法街头艺术或涂鸦，另外有 20 至 50 名艺术家被允许可以在墙面上涂鸦。每年，他们都会尝试着把这个节日搬到不同的区域，这样就不会和前几年的墙绘重叠。
These days, HKWalls attracts brand sponsorships from around the world and the festival is able to fly artists in, put them up in hotels, give them hundreds of cans of paint, and provide the heavy equipment needed for large scale works. This year they even rented a three-story building where they hosted parties, workshops, and art shows.
HKwalls is a nonprofit organization, and while it’s a full time job for the three for a few months out of the year, they don’t make any money from it. But they’ve started a for-profit business to handle all the event requests they get asked to do as a result of their growing notoriety. And the connections they make through these side events are in turn relied on for HKwalls later, so each side of the business reinforces the other.
HKWalls 是个非盈利组织，虽然他们三个人一年中的好几个月在全职工作，但他们并没有从中赚钱。如今他们已经开始了以营利为目的的公司，来处理那些声名鹊起后找上门来的生意。而他们通过这些随着 HKWalls 建立的联系，也加强了对 HKWalls 本身的名气，两者互惠互利。
HKWalls even partnered with the government this year, which allowed them to paint on institutional buildings. “The Hong Kong Design Center approached us, because they’re pushing certain areas as design districts, and they asked us to do our festival in Wan Chai. They were instrumental in helping us find walls and get equipment,” Dembski says. But there were also some downsides to government-sponsored art. “It worked very well, but there was some censorship, and bureaucracy occasionally got in the way. We definitely see the value in what they bring, though, and want to work with them again.”
Such issues are common in Hong Kong, and not just in government partnerships. “People can be quite conservative here, so content that might not be controversial in other places ends up being problematic here,” says Dembski, who moved here from the US ten years ago. “We’ve turned down walls because they wouldn’t accept what we wanted to give them. It’s always a give and take, and we’re always pushing for more freedom. So the walls where they say, ‘do whatever you want,’ those are what we really like. But they’re difficult to find.”
Plan out your route to check out this year’s stunning murals with the HKWalls Painting Map.
今年，HKWalls 甚至和政府合作，在公共建筑上作画成为可能。“香港设计中心找我们，因为他们把某些地区作为设计区来推销，他们要求我们在湾仔举办节日。他们在帮助我们寻找墙壁和获取设备方面发挥了重要作用。” Jason 说。但政府赞助的艺术也有一些不利之处。“它运作得很好，但有一些审查制度，有时官僚作风也会妨碍创作。但我们确实看到了他们带来的价值，并希望再次与他们合作。”
这些问题不仅仅是在政府的合作关系中，在香港也很普遍。“这里的人们可能相当保守，在其他地方可能不会引起争议的内容，在这里却会有。” Jason 说，他是十年前从美国搬到这里的。“假如一些愿意提供墙的人不同意我们的创作方向，我们会拒绝画墙。这是相互的过程，我们一直都在争取更多创意上的自由。如果有人愿意提供墙壁，并让我们自由发挥的话，这是我们最喜欢的，但这种机会很难找到。”
如果你想在今年亲眼看看香港的墙绘盛况，可以点击进入 HKWalls Painting Map 查看和计划你的行程。