HK arts hub exodus: amid fresh delays, key executives leaving West Kowloon project

09-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Several key executives are about to leave the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority as it faces further delays to the opening of two arts venues.

Staff members and advisers to the authority have told the Post they worry that, the longer the delays, the more people will leave out of frustration. The first venues at the arts hub should have opened nine years ago but only one has opened so far.

The openings of The Box at Freespace a black box theatre and the M+ museum of visual culture have been eagerly anticipated. However, The Box failed to open as scheduled in April, and M+, whose planned 2017 opening has already been put back twice, may not open until 2021.

The Post has confirmed that between now and autumn 2019, five executives will depart because they are not renewing their contracts: chief technology officer Emily Chan, development director Julian Marland, commercial director Christian Wright, head of technical development Paul Hennig and, as previously reported, the executive director in charge of performance arts, Louis Yu Kwok-lit.

In a statement in response to questions from the Post, the authority said it “has a robust human resources management and succession plan in place to ensure a smooth transition whenever there is staff movement”. Duncan Pescod, the authority’s director, declined to comment on the departures when asked about them in Venice, Italy, where he attended the M+ museum’s international launch party.

The Box theatre was supposed to have been ready to open in April. Its first show was going to be a preview of an original Cantonese musical called The Great Pretender, written by Leon Ko Sai-cheung and co-produced with the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre. The show will now be performed exclusively for Hong Kong Repertory Theatre subscribers from May 23 to 26 at the Xiqu Centre the one performance venue in West Kowloon to have opened.

No explanation was given for the delayed opening of The Box. The first show to be performed there as part of its “pre-opening” programme will now be A True Story by Christian Rizzo on June 14 and 15, as part of annual arts festival Le French May.

Meanwhile, the opening of M+ may be postponed to 2021, even though its official website still promises a 2020 opening. Its opening date hangs on the release by Hong Kong government inspectors of an occupation permit for the building. Arts hub directors were informed of the possible delay in late March, the authority said in its statement to the Post.

The authority struck a positive note at the launch party for M+ in Venice on Tuesday, telling the audience who are in the Italian city for the opening of the Venice Biennale that the Hong Kong museum’s launch programme was in place and that M+ would definitely open before the next edition of the biennale, in May 2021.

The concept of a cultural district on a 40-hectare harbourfront site in West Kowloon was announced in 1998 by Tung Chee-hwa, the head of the first Hong Kong administration under Chinese rule. It would be “Asia’s arts and cultural capital”, he said, and a first batch of arts and performance venues would open in 2010. In the two decades since his announcement there have been multiple delays, changes of management and numerous controversies over its funding and components.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Comments are closed.