Formerly known as JIA Hong Kong and J Plus Boutique Hotel, Asia's first Philippe Starck-designed boutique hotel opened in 2004 in Causeway Bay. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the property, a makeover and rebranding took place in 2014, transforming it into J Plus Hotel by YOO. Along with a sleek new look and name, the brand also conceived the Art@JPlushk programme, a project that offers artists the opportunity to exhibit their works in the eclectic lobby of the hotel.
The idea was the brainchild of the hotel's general manager, Vivian Chau. "We wanted to help promote international artists and encourage local artists as well, but in Hong Kong, it's difficult to find space in the city centre. Because we have a hotel with quite a big lobby — by Hong Kong standards — in the centre of Causeway Bay, we thought it would be a good space to merge a mix of things together: a gallery, a lobby, a meeting space," she explains.
Such forward thinking was met with some scepticism initially, as the team attempted to explain their new concept; Chau says that the first two or three years of the project were difficult as people couldn't understand how it would work. Eventually, however, the hotel partnered with renowned Hong Kong art space The Cat StreetGallery for the first few iterations of the project, and Art@JPlushk was born.
Essentially, every quarter, the hotel exhibits works by an artist they have sourced either through Instagram or other avenues. For each exhibition, the team seeks out a new style of artist, in a bid to refresh the hotel's interior and to promote all varieties of art. The pop-up art space in the lobby is one of a kind in Hong Kong, and also features a permanent mural by Hong Kong-based, New Yorkraised street artist Stern Rockwell.
Chau says that the programme acts as an excellent talking point for her and her guests: "We have lots of repeat guests, so every time we have a new exhibition they have something new to see. Some of the guests have checked in 200 times or more, and every time they learn about a new artist and the story behind the work, and I think that it encourages them to come back."
So far, the hotel has exhibited artists from a range of countries including Ireland, France and, of course, Hong Kong. Each artist brings his or her own flavour to the space, working in a variety of mediums including graffiti, photography and print-making.
Launching in March, to coincide with all of the other art happenings in Hong Kong during the month, the hotel will be showing Phantasmagoria, an exhibition of works by Australian illustrator Chloe Bennett.
"We saw her work online and reached out to her agent, and she basically agreed right away," says Chau. "We gave her a video tour of the space so that she would know the area she would be working in. She went away and did some research on Hong Kong and came back to us with her work. It's fun and bright, and will look very good!"
This is an excerpt from the "Meet you in the lobby” article from the March 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.
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