The Renovation of Hong Kong’s “Avenue of Stars” and its Accidental Alternative

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Maybe you didn’t know (or didn’t care) but Hong Kong’s “Avenue of Stars” (a tourist attraction/homage to Hong Kong cinema situated on Tsim Sha Tsui’s harbor front promenade) has been undergoing a renovation since 2015. It has been closed to the public since that date.

Putting aside the perplexing three-year time frame allocated for a seemingly easy-to-complete project or the pressing need for revamping this location (it’s not like it was falling apart), the “Avenue of Stars” had already gained a reputation as a rather useless local attraction that was primarily visited by tourists for the express purpose of taking selfies. The over riding aesthetic of “Avenue of Stars” with its (for example) all-too-obvious yet hardly-attractive inclusion of a Bruce Lee statue sadly falls in line with the dull creative wit of Hong Kong’s city planners and bureaucrats.

In the (3 year) meantime, a provisional and far less expensive display (still concerning Hong Kong cinema) has been installed in a pedestrian tunnel that connects the harbor front to the East Tsim Tsui MTR station. This is where a huge underground Sogo had previously been located, and since I am dealing with issues of infrastructure and cost, it might also be assumed that the location had become too expensive even for that solvent Japanese enterprise.

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At first (after Sogo’s departure) this tunnel was host to multiple banal and vague inspirational quotes (taken from writers and artists) writ large on the walls of this passageway. Have you ever felt like you were being yelled at by the mystic poet William Blake to get INSPIRED because LIFE is so INSPIRING? You get the idea.

These quotes could be categorized as an average kind of placeholder, not quite as ugly as certain commercial advertisements, but hardly incisive. Then came the seemingly unintended consequence that, to my mind, improves on “Avenue of Stars”; the current display uses the corridor’s stretch of walls to present historical timelines, archival photographs, simulated ephemera (“original” movie posters) and HUGE photos of some of the most well known of Hong Kong movie stars.

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The location itself is one of those curious Hong Kong spaces that one finds practically empty in the usually congested city, probably because there is no reason to go there unless you are on the way to somewhere else and/or lost; it is well suited for the installation which is able to entertain and inform the rushed or idle pedestrian in an unassuming manner.

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This creative outcome seems almost accidental. It is of course by definition provisional; the effective simplicity of the installation countermands the bureaucracy’s (and its concomitant developer’s lobby) standing orders for the endless building and rebuilding of Hong Kong in tandem with their dearth of aesthetic and conceptual innovation.

This state of affairs, the “dull wit” of Hong Kong’s city planners, are such that I might be loath to offer this official endorsement for the provisional “Avenue of Stars” as this recommendation might be codified, quantified and put into unbending practice. The solution, or alternatives, should be obvious, but the will (or wherewithal) is lacking.

In the meantime, The Hong Kong Film Archive, located in Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong East, while being housed in an extremely ugly building, still maintains as a vital institution with curated screenings, didactic exhibitions and scholarly yet entertaining publications, all related to Hong Kong and international cinema. The flash and boosterism of the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade’s “Avenue of Stars” displaces (through its prominent location) the depth of The Archive’s content while pining for a misplaced and tacky equation of Hong Kong to Hollywood.

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Posted in Hong Kong art/artists.