Hong Kong is a paradise. Home of enormous skyscrapers, a bustling metropolis of commerce and finance, and favorable tax laws to encourage trade growth (and duty-free!)

Culture and creativity may not be the first thing that come time mind when one imagines the “fragrant harbor”, the meaning behind the Cantonese name for Hong Kong, but it should. For Hong Kong has become a leader in the art world, standing only behind London and New York for their immense art markets, where thousands of works are bought and sold monthly.

Why Hong Kong?

Hong Kong’s relative newness to the art scene could be considered an advantage, as it bears no reputation, no history which points to only specific genres, methods, or styles of art to be found in the city. Hong Kong, in fact, has it all: an international gateway, creating a stepping-off location for an influx of artists and works from surrounding areas, a growing affluent population eager to expand their creative tastes, and many auction houses providing artwork to meet any style a buyer may be looking for.

Because there are so many options, it can be overwhelming to decide which exhibitions to see; one could spend months perusing the options in this city, not ever to be disappointed. However, these three shows offer a fulfilling and unique experience within the spectacular art scene during this season in Hong Kong:

Refutation, Ai Weiwei: Tang Contemporary Art

Art can provide enjoyment; it can also force us to think beyond beauty. Ai Weiwei’s art enchants, in part due to its power to make viewers reflect upon harsh realities found even in today’s modern world.

The exhibition’s signature piece, Law of the Journey, may tell the specific story of refugees arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos, but it also reveals to visitors the humanity we all share, and the angst and isolation felt by those who have become refugees and are forced from their homes. Viewers may be reminded of the story of Noah’s Ark, where the last citizens of the earth became refugees at sea when their land was destroyed by flood.

Additional pieces found in Refutation offer retrospection into the realities of other isolated humans, from political prisoners to residents of war zones, imposing the figures on everyday items or placing them out of context and into other cultures. One can understand the universality of being lost when seeing figures taken from their cultures and segregated from their people and homes, no matter the motive.

Ceramic Works and…., Yoshitomo Nara: Pace Gallery

In stark contrast to Ai Weiwei’s exhibition, Yoshimoto Nara’s works investigate the range of emotions in ceramic pieces.  He balances the showcase of emotions with the scale of clay sculptures in his single subject. He has spent years refining his figure, and states that using clay is liberating when compared to using tools like a pencil or paintbrush, allowing him to create more fully with his hands.

His singular figure tempts viewers to contemplate their own emotions, mirrored in the monumental faces Nara has created.   The use of clay brings an earthy, raw expression which visitors may reflect upon. The variation in size and medium shown in the works of this exhibition allow viewers to experience highs and lows in human emotion, inviting them to look inside themselves for some of the same feelings or to ponder what has led to such a feeling.

Songs for Disaster Relief World Tour, Samson Young: M+ Museum, West Kowloon

This multi-media experience is in the new museum for visual culture within the West Kowloon Cultural District, which focuses on 20th and 21st century art forms.  Songs for Disaster Relief World Tour is a true experience, combining music, video, and a variety of sculptures, objects, and site-specific pieces. Reminiscent of the charity audio and video works created during the 1980’s, Samson Young gathers events which showcase the effects of this type of work on economics, politics and cultures. As part of this event, talks, tours, and live performances provide visitors with a sensory encounter which not only entertains, but educates and inspires them to understand how cultural experiences can affect social issues.

Artistic Experience in Hong Kong

Although not home to many artists due to the high cost of living, Hong Kong welcomes works from international artists and provides an atmosphere in which collectors can experience an immense variety of works and artistic events, one which is destined for greatness. As interest in the art scene here grows, so will the number of artists and works available for display and purchase, making this a must-visit location for any art lover.