My City Art

A Plugged-in Gallery Director Offers a Food and Art Lover’s Guide to Hong Kong

Portrait of Kaitlin Chan by Bryant Lee. All images courtesy of Kaitlin Chan.

If Kaitlin Chan had one piece of advice for visitors to Hong Kong, it would be to resist the urge to do it all. Having grown up in the Asian art hub, Chan now serves as associate director of Empty Gallery, the contemporary art space known for supporting ambitious multimedia installations by artists including Jes Fan and Cici Wu. As the art world descends on Hong Kong for Art Basel (March 26-30), which has returned to its pre-pandemic size after several years operating on a slimmed-down scale, Chan offered CULTURED her list of favorite places for dim sum, quality clothing, and off-the-beaten-path art experiences.  

What are you most excited to see during the week of Art Basel Hong Kong?

I’m particularly excited to see the subtle and understated work of Carrie Yamaoka at Kiang Malingue Gallery, Xiyadie’s dazzling paper cuts at Blindspot Gallery, the esoteric yet playful performance artist Aki Sasamoto at Para Site, and Supper Club, a new collaborative fair spearheaded by PHD Group’s Ysabelle Cheung and Willem Molesworth and the Shophouse’s Alex Chan with the curator Anqi Li. I grew up going to the Fringe Club, and I can’t wait to see how they transform it.

Of course, the cherry on the cake is our 30th anniversary exhibition at Empty Gallery, “Le Contre Ciel,” organized by Olivia Shao, featuring more than 20 artists from various backgrounds and time periods. Our dark gallery has a way of drawing attention to just the works, and I love how this show brings together pre-modern objects with contemporary voices. It’s also been wonderful to collaborate with many galleries locally and internationally whose programs we’ve long admired.

Any tips for getting the most out of Hong Kong?

Make time for a ferry trip to an outlying island with a book and a little something to sit on—you won’t regret it. Also, don’t be afraid to stay in one district for a morning or afternoon rather than trying to hop all over the place. There’s already so much to see in just Yau Ma Tei or Wan Chai alone.

Sunset on Lamma Island.

Favorite place for dim sum?

There are layers to dim sum here, but here is a quick and dirty guide: 

–Vegetarian dim sum with a view: Lok Cha Tea House in Hong Kong Park or Chi Lin Vegetarian in Chi Lin Nunnery
–Regular everyday dim sum: King’s Dim Sum, Jardine’s Bazaar
–Fancy dim sum: Kin’s Kitchen, Wan Chai

Dim sum at Chi Lin Vegetarian.

What is your pick for a local restaurant you can actually get into for dinner?

Rub elbows with new friends at any of the cooked food centers in Hong Kong. I’m partial to Dong Kee in the Sheung Wan Cooked Food Center, where they have nailed the essence of wok hei (wok flavor). 

Underrated Saturday-afternoon activity?

Meeting all the lovely dogs people bring to The Mills, which is connected to the Center for Heritage, Arts, and Textile in Tsuen Wan. History, art, and pets—what more could you want out of life? And then catching a movie at Broadway Cinematheque in Yau Ma Tei and chatting in the outdoor garden afterward.

Center for Heritage and Textile
Center for Heritage, Arts, and Textile.

Where do you go to escape the crowds?

PHD Gallery is a serene place for art amidst one of Hong Kong’s busier districts. In addition to their engaging program, their rooftop and study area provide relaxing spaces to debate, discuss and even play board games. It’s an art gallery but it feels more like a home. Another best-kept secret is the Mediatheque in M+, where you can watch their entire collection of film-based work.

Favorite places to shop for clothes?

Peacher in Tsim Sea Tsui, YNC in St. Francis St Admiralty, and god dag studio in Mong Kok. You’ve been warned, my preference is for oversized, androgynous workwear and button-downs. These places have solid quality clothes and hard-to-find brands from Japan, India, Hong Kong, and all over.

For gifts?

Jiksap, probably the largest vintage store in Hong Kong, is in To Kwa Wan. You will find all kinds of amazing gems from the past there, including cinema plates from the golden era of movies in Hong Kong, speciality lamps, lighters and watches, and other lovingly presented items from yore.