K11: does art belong into a mall?

K11 is an innovative mall that includes Art personally handpicked by its Founder and Chairman, Adrian Cheng.

k11

K11, also known as “The World’s First Art Mall”, is the concept developed by New World Development.

The Hong Kong-based company specialises in properties, infrastructures and services. Previously to the creation of the above-mentioned Art Mall, the group dealt with issues bounded to property speculation, such as the “Leung Chin-man appointment controversy” where there seemly was a collusion between the government and NWD’s interests: in 2008 Leung Chin-man (former Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands) was also named Deputy Managing Director and Executive Director of New World China Land Ltd.

k11
From Wikimedia Common: Baycrest – 維基百科用戶 in cc

The titanic creation of K11 started in 2005 and took 4 years. The mall is part of a gigantic skyscraper known as The Masterpiece: a highly critiqued 64-floor building that has  been held responsible for the destruction of historical sites, and for “damaging the existing community by contributing to gentrification”.

All these controversies aside, K11 claims to be the world’s first art mall, integrating elements of art, people, and nature. HK$20 millions were spent in order to place numerous art pieces in each floor -mostly from local artists-, personally hand-picked by the K11 Founder and Chairman, Adrian Cheng.

The idea of entwining Art and shopping is certainly not new, but despite the often paired duo having many precedents – e.g. Pacific Palace, Honk Kong-, it probably has never encountered such development. It certainly raises a question:

does Art belong in the public place?

Off-line commerce has struggled to find a way to fight back on-line shopping rapid growth: malls were clearly forced to redouble their efforts and to offer more than the mere opportunity to shop and shopping centres are nowadays the evolution of a community center. In this constant battle Art can be a weapon, mostly for its iconic value, for example in marketing this strategy is developed into a “museum-like” approach: l’objet d’art is re-allocated close to luxury items, underlying their values. This methodology is not different from what K11 does: contemporary art and luxury shopping, a Chimera that may encounters critiques though.

For example, Joshua Roth (head of UTA Fine Arts) about Pacific Place similar approach said:

“at the end of the day, artists make art because they want to share it with people; the idea that hundreds of people will see their work is an exciting thing.”
In this sense such approach tends towards a democratisation of Art: far from elitism, the work of art is collocated in everyday life; yet it contributes to the commodification of a product of creativity, which is not appreciated for its intrinsic value, but for its connection to the luxury industry.
Art, inserted in the quotidian life, does not get more appreciation, it just get more common: gazes get used to it and are no longer able to distinguish it from a piece of furniture, since there is no aim to understand it.

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