Where Le Street C’est Chic: Street Art of Hong Kong
I’m excited to share this guest post, a photo essay by Elise Bernardoni. Elise and I met and became friends in Cannes twelve years ago, where we were lucky to live for a while. We spent afternoons on the beach across the street from our dorm, consumed obscene amounts of wine and cheese, and interned at the international film festival. Somehow, in between all these things, we went to school.
I thank her for compiling these colorful street shots for us.
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Cheri and I share a love of street art. Although I only see her once every few years, I feel her closeness when finding and snapping a picture of a beautiful mural or a secret stencil. I recently visited Hong Kong, a gorgeous city of contrast and harmony, where street art abounds. Cheri asked me to share what I found with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Built into the side of a lush, mountainous rainforest, and one of the most densely populated areas in the world, Hong Kong bursts with vibrant street life. Nearly every neighborhood has an open air market which sells anything you can imagine from produce, to herbal medicines, to discount underwear. Shop fronts open fully onto the street, garage door-style. Outdoor restaurants, bar patios, and mall arcades are popular gathering places. When the weather is nice (before the oppressive summer heat turns the whole city into a sauna), Hong Kong is best enjoyed by foot. So I walked. And as I walked, I discovered a city full of street art—slightly deviant, always creative—expressing the exuberance of a young and modern city.
I love the use of color and layering in this piece. The green and yellow popped off the wall in a small side alley in the Mid-Level district.
Three languages are spoken in Hong Kong: native Cantonese, mainland Mandarin, and English. I was surprised to find so much art in English, and wished to know what the rare Chinese characters meant.
A multi-artist mural stretches several blocks in a walkway connecting the train terminal to the escalator network in the Central district.
A whimsical mural at the Aberdeen Harbor.
A glorious sign for a construction worker-only fast food noodle joint. I knew I was going to fall in love with Hong Kong the moment I saw this. Mid-level district.
American pop culture heavily influenced many of the pieces I came across. Lamma Island.
It wasn’t surprising to see Shepard Fairey’s influence in this political statement. Central district.
It was surprising, and genuinely funny, to see Dr. House on Lamma Island, a small expat haven/fishing village. Sources—okay, my brother—tell me that until very recently the text read “It’s not SARS”. Hong Kong is still obsessed with routine sanitation and sterilization 10 years after the SARS outbreak.
This was my favorite stencil. I love the vulnerability and tenderness. Lamma Island.
Everything about this is perfect: textures, colors, statement. [Instagram—Lo-fi]
An entertaining and slightly disturbing collage on a busy street. Central district.
For the record, I did not see any Hong Kong police eating babies, but I like the commentary of this piece.
One of the few paper-on-wall pieces that I found.
Owls are a common motif in Hong Kong. This surprise mural on Lamma Island was delightful. [Instagram—Hefe]
An endearing sad panda. I’m generally not a fan of pandas (buy me a drink and I’ll tell you why), but I don’t want to see them crying. Central district. [Instagram—Hefe]
Po Toi Island suffered a hurricane several years ago. Even in decay, the colors invite further exploration. [Instagram—Lo-fi]
Red on teal. The beauty of a fisherman’s hand-written sign. Po Toi Island.
Thanks for the lovely reminder, Hong Kong. [Instagram—Lo-fi]
(Note: Cheri inspired me to only use my iPhone camera for this trip.)
Elise Bernardoni lives in Washington DC with her two cats, a fish, and a house full of plants. Her prized possession from Hong Kong is an antique bird cage, complete with porcelain feeding bowls and a tiny dim sum tray. She is a full-time zoo professional, but dreams of running away and knitting for a living. On a beach. In southern France. With Cheri and friends.