King of Kowloon: Tales of Kowloon King
19 May - 30 JulyFree
Born in Canton in 1921, Tsang Tsou Choi (a.k.a King of Kowloon) travelled to Hong Kong as a poor, barely literate teenager. After discovering some important ancestral documents, Tsang claimed that the land of Kowloon belonged to his family, thereby adopting the title “King of Kowloon”. Over the years, he became a cultural icon, covering the streets of the international city -Hong Kong with his unique form of calligraphy with Chinese brush, ink and occasionally marker. The unrestrained nature of his practice meant that he was able to project his ideas on ubiquitous walls, lampposts, under flyovers and electrical boxes. Tsang’s messages were initially interpreted by the public as a display of total insanity; however, after decades of graffiti-style writing, his persistence has finally gained recognition and has become a common urban cultural memory for generations of Hong Kong people.
Family features prominently in The Tsang’s art. He would often detail his lineage, listing the names of his ancestors all the way back to the original landowner, demonstrating his rightful inheritance of the land in Kowloon. His wife also frequently appears in his works as “The Empress”. One work reads: “The Empress Man Fook-choi has just come back from a meeting with the British Queen”.
Although only three of his works have not been destroyed so far, rebuilt, eroded or covered, his influential practice left an enduring legacy: He represented Hong Kong at the Venice Biennale in 2003, and his works were exhibited in the Hong Kong Pavilion. In addition, his works were also exhibited in Daejeon Fine Arts in 2019 and Tai Kwun in 2021. His works are also being shown in Google Virtual Museum and sold at Sotheby’s auctions. After his death, the government kept the cement pillar at the Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui and the calligraphy on the lamp post next to the Temple of the Lords of the Three Mountains in Ping Shek Village. In addition, M+, a new visual culture museum in Hong Kong, also exhibits and collects his artworks.
This year, for the first time, we hope to position the work of Tsang Tsou Choi (aka King of Kowloon) on street art and graffiti art rather than the usual calligraphy angle. For a long time, many people have described his work as “calligraphy”, but in the eyes of Lucie Chang Fine Arts, we prefer to see his work as street or graffiti art, and “King of Kowloon ” can be regarded as a pioneer in Hong Kong graffiti art. Faithful to his identity as the “King of Kowloon”, and with an anti-imperialist and colonial spirit, he expressed his views on his time, and from his works, including paper and street works, it can be seen that his creative spirit is very unrestrained.
At this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong, more than twenty works by the “King of Kowloon” were on display. Although many of them are written in black ink, the content and paper used in each work are different. Among them, the most noteworthy is a work written on the Kowloon map, which shows his status as the “King of Kowloon”, and this type of work is difficult to find in the market, which can be said “rare is precious”. Meanwhile, our gallery is also having a solo exhibition of “King of Kowloon”, which, in addition to the above-mentioned works, also features the little-known marker works of “King of Kowloon”.
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9 July - 14 July