When it comes to the street art scene, Hong Kong is not a name that is usually among the most talked about. In the ensuing years, mural art has ballooned in Hong Kong amid a growing scene with local and international artists and increasingly favourable attitudes towards art in the public, by the public. Murals spread across Hong Kong, with diverging degrees of style, quality and message.
2013 saw the launch of HKWalls, a street art festival that has helped ferment discussion about public art spaces in the city. The following year saw the Occupy movement and its accompanying flurry of creative expression in public spaces. The protests turned out to be a rife platform for the creation of street art, with students, activists and citizens leaving their marks on the city’s concrete and turning the streets into extraordinary art installations. Their visual messages and rebellions were catapulted into the world’s consciousness via the international media reporting on the protests. I always remind people to look up in Hong Kong. If we only pay attention to the street level, we’ll miss so many wonderful things. Here take a look at some of the pieces that brightening up Hong Kong walls.
One of the earliest forms of business in Hong Kong, pawn shops are situated in almost every district of the city. Pawnbroking in Hong Kong has a history as long as that of the city itself. Before major banks established themselves in the then-British colony and won the confidence of local residents, pawn shops served as early Hongkongers’ main financial institutions. Customers would invest their wages in valuables that could then be stored at pawn shops and used as collateral against which they borrowed sums of money. Within a certain contractual period of time, the pawner could then redeem the items for the amount of the loan, plus an agreed-upon amount of interest. If the customer does not repay the loan with interest then the belongings are kept and sold off to second-hand and jewellery shops. Jewellery, watches, fur and clothes are the most common items pawned.
In Hong Kong, you'll see an occasional glimpse of a pawn store sign featuring an upside down bat holding a coin. You may also notice that these signs are colored in vibrant shades of neon red and green. These signs are used by Hong Kong's pawn shops and have been for well over two hundred years. The colors and symbolism of these signs have special meanings in both Hong Kong and Chinese society as a whole.