The Asia Society Hong Kong Centre opened in February 2012 in the former Explosives Magazine in Admiralty. It took over 10 years for a partnership between the Hong Kong government and the US non-profit Asia Society to give birth to this incredible building floating above Pacific Place and a successful example of blend of heritage and creativity.
Although the Asia Society Centre ran the exhibition Buddhism in Art when it opened and a few others since then, it has not received much attention until recently with the opening of No Country, a new exhibition showing contemporary art from South and Southeast Asia. This one is advertised everywhere, in the MTR, in HK Magazine, in Time Out, FT Weekend, etc. And so I decided to go check it out. I have to say there was nothing to draw me there before.
But what was I missing? The Asia Society is a real gem and should definitely make it to Hong Kong’s list of top attractions. Here is why:
- Great location, just above Pacific Place and Admiralty MTR (one of Hong Kong’s busiest stations), 2 stops away from Causeway Bay and TST where a majority of tourists concentrate;
- Interesting mix of heritage (historical buildings preserved), culture (exhibitions) and architecture (design by Billie Tsien & Todd Williams);
- A focus on Asian content, which appeals to Asian tourists (China, Korea, Southeast Asia, India, etc) on the rise in Hong Kong. The current exhibition is well curated, showing newly acquired pieces from the Guggenheim’s collection;
- A complete tourist experience complementing the visit: relaxing (very zen roof garden), photo opportunities (stunning views of the Victoria Harbour and Admiralty), dining (AMMO restaurant) and shopping (well curated store).
I wish I had known that before. For some reason the image I had of the Asia Society Centre was that of an exclusive members-only club, which was organizing exhibitions from time to time; maybe because of the high profile conferences they organize where entry fees are quite high?
Now I realize I was wrong. The Asia Society Centre could be one of the best museums/galleries in Hong Kong. The question: is this what they want? If yes, they will have to do a lot of work on their perception among the general public and to organize more ‘blockbuster exhibitions’ to keep people talking about them.
I am all up for it. As I said earlier, Hong Kong desperately needs more tourist attractions and the Asia Society Centre has got everything it needs to be one of the top ones.