Upper Central refers is the area of Central south of Wellington Street, which takes you above the main Central hub to the cluster of meandering streets close to Soho. There will be a lot of walking up and down slopes and stairs, so make sure you wear good walking shoes! Exploring art in this area also lets you experience sights and sounds characteristic of old Hong Kong – there’s nothing more fun than being a tourist in your own city!
Alisan Fine Arts
Start your visit by visiting Alisan Fine Arts* on Lyndhurst Terrace, founded in Hong Kong the 1980s by Alice King and Sandra Walters. The gallery is now run by Daphne King-Yao, and has been a pioneer in the field of Chinese contemporary art and New Ink Art, focusing on mainland Chinese artists as well as established Hong Kong and Chinese diaspora artists – think Lui Shou-Kwan, Fang Zhaoling, Ming Fay, and Chu Teh-Chun. The gallery recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a series of museum-worthy exhibitions.
Grotto Fine Art
Cross Lyndhurst Terrace to visit Grotto Fine Art, founded by art specialist and curator Henry Au-Yeung in 2001, to nurture the talents of emerging Hong Kong artists. Since its establishment, the well-respected gallery has promoted the careers of countless local artists to international recognition. The gallery also runs a larger and more expansive space in Shau Kei Wan, which hosts larger presentations from time to time.
Next, walk up to Hollywood Road from Lyndhurst Terrace via the famous granite stone steps of Pottinger Street. Did you know that it was named in 1858 after Henry Pottinger, Hong Kong’s first Governor, and that it is a Grade I historic site?
If you’re lucky, you might catch the yarn creations of Esther Poon around the handrails. Known for her ‘yarn bombings’, which involves wrapping trees, balustrades, handrails, fire hydrants, or other city fixtures and fittings with knitted works, Poon’s creations brighten up the streets of Central.
On the top of the steps to your right, visit Aishonanzuka at the Chinachem Hollywood Center. A collaboration between Aisho Miura Arts and Nanzuka, the gallery exhibits Japanese art in its quirky space opposite the Tai Kwun historical site. Its focus on pop art relevant to today’s youth culture (and the fact that the gallery sells art toys) makes it a popular choice amongst young visitors.
Across Hollywood Road is Tai Kwun*, Hong Kong’s Centre for Heritage and Arts revitalised from the historic Central Police Station compound – a cultural destination offering heritage and arts experiences with thematic exhibitions and art presentations in its various art spaces. Opened in 2018, Tai Kwun is its colloquial name and means ‘big station’ in Chinese – a reminder of its historical importance. A popular destination for Hong Kongers, there’s something for everyone at Tai Kwun – shops, galleries, restaurants, as well as performing arts.
Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery
Within Tai Kwun, visit Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery* in the Headquarters block. Established in Hong Kong in 1991 by Catherine Kwai, the local powerhouse specialises in 20th century modern Chinese and Asian contemporary art, focusing especially on diaspora artists who have been influenced by modern western ideology, art and culture. If you’re looking to see works by Chinese diaspora artists, Zao Wou-ki, Lalan, and Chu Teh-Chun; or European Lyrical Abstraction pioneers, Georges Matthieu, Gérard Schneider, and Pierre Soulages, this is the place to be. Signalling a new chapter in the development of its gallery vision, the gallery moved to its present Tai Kwun space in 2021.
Next, walk across to visit Ora-Ora* in the Barrack Block, also recently moved to its present space in 2021. Established in 2009 by Henrietta Tsui-Leung, Ora-Ora has played an especially vital role in promoting Chinese contemporary ink in the region. With a diverse roster of artists, it has also focused on bringing international recognition to local Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese ink artists. In addition, under Tsui-Leung’s direction, it is one of the first galleries to showcase NFTs in Hong Kong!
Next, head towards MASSIMODECARLO* on the 2nd floor, also in the Barrack Block. It was founded in Milan in 1987 and plays a fundamental role in promoting Italian art outside Italy, and in bringing international art into Italy. It has brought cutting-edge artists to Hong Kong, attracting huge audiences to presentations by artists such as Elmgreen & Dragset, Paola Pivi, Yan Pei-Ming, and Carsten Höller.
In the same Barrack block building, walk across to Touch Ceramics and Touch Gallery, established in 2016 and 2020 respectively. Aiming to promote the beauty of ceramic art as well as to feature local artists, the two galleries exhibit works from emerging and well-known contemporary artists in their cosy exhibition areas; often the works are presented together to create conversations.
Tai Kwun Contemporary is the non-profit visual art programme of Tai Kwun. With 5-8 exhibitions a year and curatorially-driven, it also offers an extensive range of public programming devoted to learning, as well as an extensive Asia-centred Artists’ Book Library. Tai Kwun Contemporary’s exhibitions are showcased in a museum-standard space located in JC Contemporary* as well as in the F Hall Heritage Building. The façade of the new building is inspired by the brick patterns found on this historic site, while the new circular staircase inside has become one of the main attractions of the entire revitalised compound. The two new buildings – JC Contemporary and JC Cube – are designed by renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron. See if you can spot the public art pieces placed around the courtyard!
Public Art in Tai Kwun
Additionally, all over Tai Kwun there are numerous public artworks specially commissioned by Tai Kwun Contemporary, including works by Nadim Abbas, Gaylord Chan, Ceal Floyer, Izumi Kato, and the late Lawrence Weiner.
After your visit to Tai Kwun, exit via Old Bailey Street. Time allowing, walk across to Staunton Street to find Art Supermarket. Founded in 2011 by Michael Manzardo, the space showcases a range of works by emerging Asian and Western contemporary artists. With the motto, ‘Art is not just for people to appreciate from afar, but also to bring into their lives, to own’, the gallery aims to make art accessible to all.
10 Chancery Lane Gallery
Backtrack by walking back up Old Bailey Street, and turn left to visit 10 Chancery Lane Gallery*. Established in 2001, the gallery expands on founder Katie de Tilly’s vision, promoting works by both established and emerging artists around the world that can extend horizons and open minds. The gallery is known for its HKFOREWORD summer series, promoting Hong Kong’s new generation of art graduates from local universities. The gallery is also known for showcasing STARS artists: Wang Keping, Ma Desheng, and Huang Rui, as well as Hong Kong’s very own Frog King!
After your visit, turn right as you exit the gallery and walk down the steps of Chancery Lane, turning left on Arbuthnot Road and walking down the road until you hit Wyndham Street. In the building next to the post office on Wyndham Street, Galerie KOO is a local homegrown gallery founded by Cecilia Koo in 2012. Focusing on Chinese ink, both traditional or contemporary, it represents established and emerging artists from different parts of the world.
Next, continue walking down Wyndham Street until you come to 3812 Gallery‘s newly-refurbished space, which it has called home since 2021. The gallery is dedicated to fostering cultural understanding of Chinese contemporary art with ‘Eastern origin and contemporary expressions’. Established in 2001 by Calvin Hui and Mark Peaker, the gallery is a platform for international dialogue and exchanges through their art programmes. Recently it has focussed on a programme to promote St. Ives artists to the Asia region.
Hong Kong Fringe Club
Lastly, continue walking down Wyndham Street towards Queen’s Road Central. On your right, you will see the Dairy Farm Building, an unmissable Hong Kong architectural icon listed as a Grade I historic building. Dating from 1892, the façade features polychromatic ‘bandaged’ brickworks. Since 1984, it has been occupied by the Foreign Correspondent’s Club, the Hong Kong Fringe Club, and Fringe Gallery, an art space that hosts pop-ups as well as exhibitions of accessible contemporary local artists.
If you’re still thirsty for more art after all the above suggestions, end your day by visiting Amanda Wei Gallery and Sansiao Gallery, both located in the same building on Wyndham Street. Both relative newcomers to the Hong Kong art scene, the galleries were founded in 2017 and 2016 respectively, and showcase a diverse roster of artists, both young and established.
*Our tops picks in the area if you are on a limited time schedule.
Additional information & Disclaimer
Admission to galleries is free, and they are normally open Tuesday-Saturday. However, there are exceptions; please always check their website or call ahead for exact opening days and hours before your visit.