Hong Kong Sacred Spaces viewing Organic Float by Bahk Seon Ghi located 1/F Cambridge House at Taikoo Place
Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Public Art Walk at Taikoo Place
Cyril Ma and Justin Santini
The following report outlines information gathered during a Public Art Walk hosted by Hong Kong Sacred Spaces whereby members of the Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Community viewed public art pieces installed by Swire / 太古集團 Properties in and around Taikoo Place and Cityplaza located on Hong Kong Island’s Eastern District. The purpose of the walk was to introduce the members of Hong Kong Sacred Spaces to the public art there and to investigate the group’s opinion regarding the art on display. Results gathered were mostly of a quantitative nature with some qualitative discussions.
Hong Kong Sacred Spaces
Hong Kong Sacred Spaces is an initiative of the Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Society, a non profit organization dedicated to inclusive cultural exchange and educational activities. Sacred Spaces investigates cultural landscapes in both urban and rural settings which includes churches, temples, monasteries, synagogues, mosques, and traditional Chinese ancestral sites. The group also seeks to expand the definition of the “sacred" by including non-traditional themes and locations in our visits such as museums, galleries, and other unique sites.
Currently, the greater Sacred Spaces Community has a membership of just over 5,700 members. The Community is made up of members of the Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Society and associated channels or points of contact. It has had 191 events over the past 3 years of which this public art walk was the first.
1/ Does the Public “Like" Public Art?
Measuring Public Art engagement is notoriously difficult.1 This particular event “Public Art Walk at Taikoo Place’ was presented to the membership of Hong Kong Sacred Spaces as a way of engaging the group with art through the medium of a public walk. The Taikoo Place and Cityplaza Commercial Space was chosen because of its high visibility, excellent public transportation access, and wide range of informational aids such as the official website2. The 32 person participant group was formed from the Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Community.
The event was part of the “Spring Art Series" highlighting public art in Hong Kong during March and April 2018. There were 3 art related events through this period: 1/ “Art Walk" through Taikoo Place, 2/ a docent-led tour of the Art Collection at the K11 “Art Mall" in Tsim Sha Tsui, and 3/ a Participant Workshop revolving around the theme of environmentalism hosted by local artist Maria Chan. The weather on the event day was partly cloudy with a temperature of approximately 25˚C.
Of the various methods used to track engagement and interest within Hong Kong Sacred Spaces the 2 primary methods are the “Total Number of Participant RSVPs" and “Percentage of RSVPs vs. Declines" as of the event date.
The Art Walk Event had the highest number of affirmative participant engagement with a total number of 54 RSVPs. This number does not include the 33 members who declined to attend the event after first making an affirmative RSVP. The overall engagement for this event is 87 members.
The second grouping indicates that people were less likely to decline or change their RSVP throughout the run-up period for the Taikoo Place Art Walk then for the K11 Docent-led Tour AND the Artist-led Workshop.
Results related to Group Interest in Public Art
The data collected was largely quantitative in the form of “Vote Ranking" with ad hoc conversations with participants for added contextualization. It should be noted that the event was first and foremost a meetup event with formal elements of a research project secondary. Despite this, the participants were told that their information would be used for reporting purposes and also to discuss the pieces of art in a casual manner. At any point, the participants were free to leave.
Although we did not strictly adhere to the matrix outlined in the ixia guide to public art evaluation which is a “best in class" evaluation methodology, we did broadly incorporate the philosophy of managing evaluation cycles by following ROAMEF (Rationale, Objectives, Appraisal, Monitoring, Evaluation, Feedback).3
Prior to the event, it was decided that the walk would revolve around a grouping we called the ‘Top 10’ art pieces shown at Taikoo. Since Top 10 lists are inherently subjective the Organizers decided to define popularity by using Google Search Analytics. The name of the art piece along with the artist was run through Hong Kong branded Google Search Engine with all subsequent ‘hits’ notated. While not all ten pieces were visited, it formed the base of the original walk map.
The method of data collection was done in several stages.
- A piece of art was approached and given a brief introduction based on publicly available information on Swire’s Taikoo website.
- Participants were then asked to vote with a simple ‘yes or no’ if the piece of art was likable in any way.
- The event facilitator would elicit a short discussion after each piece.
Before further discussion, there were a few outliers that that should be mentioned. Firstly, the Zen Fountain was under maintenance on the event day and the low votes are most likely reflected in this. Secondly, similarly ‘In The Loop and Around the Square’ was also under, inaccessible on the event day and the environmental factors such as high indoor temperatures made it and the area unwelcoming. Finally, ‘馬 (ma)’, the art piece with the highest vote by a large margin, could not originally be found on the Artwalk Website and was discussed as an ad hoc piece. This meant that our participants, which were given resources before attending, could not have viewed this piece beforehand.
There is clearly a visible difference between the ratios of online searches in Google Search vs. the public vote taken the day of the event. Most notably was the distribution of Google Searches towards a small number of pieces. If these Searches can be a predictor of assumed popularity that some pieces would be far more favored than others. In addition to other indicators the assumption would be that the public vote would also reflect that which is clearly not the case. Although there are still extremes in the voting set, especially in the lower end with the lowest vote being a mere %0.7, there is a generally even distribution of interest in the art pieces with most receiving between %5-7 interest.
There are several possible reasons for this disparity, for instance, Google Search takes into consideration many other factors that are unlikely to be known by the general public visiting Taikoo Place. For instance ‘In The Loop and Around the Square’ by Wendy Taylor received a relatively lukewarm reception within the group despite her high Google Rank. This disparity is likely caused by Taylor’s large number of international works, especially in her home market of Britain, and awards including a CBE in 1998 all of which is factored into Google Search but not necessarily by the general public in Hong Kong.4
With regards to specific media, there seems to be little correlation between the type of art piece and the likability of it. The seven most popular pieces (valued at %8.6, %6.8, %6.8, %6.8 %6.5, %6.5, %6.5) are a mix of painting, both large and small sculptures, abstract pieces and in one instance, site-specific art. The lowest ranked pieces similarly include little correlation with the bottom seven (valued %0.7, %1.7, %3.8, %4.5, %4.8, %5.8) including several site specific pieces, sculptures and abstract installations.
This report is aimed at ascertaining the likability of public art in an Art Walk format as this relates to possible future Public Art events at Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Society. The difficulties in measuring the impact of Art and Public Art are well known. The Organizers of this Taikoo Art Walk also confronted challenges in both measuring and cross-referencing the impact of Public Art on the Sacred Spaces Community. Our conclusion is that events related to “Art" or even “Art Tours" are not enough to garner support for an event. The docent-led tour and the artist-led workshop both underperformed in terms of gross reservations and propensity towards declines or cancelations. Hong Kong Sacred Spaces will continue to program events in all three categories, however, special attention and extra focus will be directed towards the Society Directed Art Walk.
1Gressel, Katherine. “Public Art and the Challenge of Evaluation". http://createquity.com/2012/01/public-art-and-the-challenge-of-evaluation/ (Accessed February 1,, 2018)
2http://www.taikooplace.com/en/amenities/ArtCollection.aspx (Assessed January 1, 2018)
3IXIA. Public Art: A Guide to Evaluation, 4th Edition. http://ixia-info.com/assets/ixia-public-art-a-guide-to-evaluation4th-edition-2014.pdf (Accessed February 1, 2018)
4RBS, Artists: Wendy Taylor CBE, https://rbs.org.uk/artists/wendy-taylor-cbe (Accessed June 5, 2018)
This document is proprietary and confidential. No part of this document may be disclosed in any manner to a third party without the prior written consent of Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Society.