David Clarke studied at University College London, and subsequently at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where he obtained his PhD in 1983. He taught in the Department of Fine Arts, University of Hong Kong (subsequently renamed in 2020 as the Department of Art History) from 1986 to 2017. He is currently Honorary Professor in the Department of Art History. He is active as both a scholar and an artist.
Amongst his sole-author academic books are: Modern Art: A Graphic Guide, Camden Press, 1987; The Influence of Oriental Thought on Postwar American Painting and Sculpture, Garland Publishing, 1988; Art and Place: Essays on Art from a Hong Kong Perspective, Hong Kong University Press, 1996; Modern Chinese Art, Oxford University Press, 2000; Hong Kong Art: Culture and Decolonization, Reaktion Books, 2001; Water and Art, Reaktion Books, 2010; Chinese Art and its Encounter with the World, Hong Kong University Press, 2011; and China—Art—Modernity: A Critical Introduction to Chinese Visual Expression from the Beginning of the Twentieth Century to the Present Day, Hong Kong University Press, 2019. Clarke’s scholarly articles have been published in journals such as Art History, Art Journal, Journal of American Studies, Oriental Art, Public Culture, The American Journal of Semiotics, Semiotica, Art Criticism, Postcolonial Studies, Journal of Visual Culture, Early Music, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Source, and Third Text.
In addition to his academic books and articles Clarke has also published two photobooks about Hong Kong: Reclaimed Land: Hong Kong in Transition (Hong Kong University Press, 2002); and Hong Kong x 24 x 365: A Year in the Life of a City (Hong Kong University Press, 2007). More recently he has also co-authored Interruptions (University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 2016), a photography and creative writing collaboration with Xu Xi which was also presented as an exhibition at UMAG in 2016. Collaboration with creative practitioners from outside the visual arts world has been a particular concern in recent years – in addition to the creative writer Xu Xi he has also worked with composers Chan Hing-yan and Joyce Tang, both of whom have written musical compositions in response to his images. His artworks have been featured in more than 80 exhibitions in Hong Kong, Great Britain, the United States, Brazil, Australia, Mainland China, Taiwan and other locations. Amongst the one-person shows in which his photos of Hong Kong have been featured are: Hong Kong Nocturne, Goethe-Gallery, Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes Hong Kong, 9-26 October 2002; Reclaimed Land: Hong Kong in Transition, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 4 - 15 February 2005; A Year in the Life of a City: Recent Photographs by David Clarke, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 10 February – 18 March, 2007; Critical Proximity, presented as a part of The Third Lianzhou International Photo Festival, Lianzhou, Guangdong Province, China, 8-22 December 2007; and Hong Kong Experience: An Exhibition of Photographs by David Clarke, Brewhouse Gallery, Royal William Yard, Plymouth, England, 9 – 24 March 2007. Clarke’s 31 June 1997 project was shown at Videotage, Hong Kong, during the summer of 2017.
Clarke has played a variety of public service roles in the Hong Kong art community. He was External Moderator for the Strategic Planning Group which developed the Hong Kong Arts Development Council’s first strategic plan, and served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Hong Kong Arts Centre for many years between 1994 and 2005. Clarke was involved with setting up the Hong Kong Art School, acting as the first chair of its Academic Committee and as a founding member of its Council (2000-2010). He was also a member of the Museums Advisory Group which developed the conceptual plan for M+ (2006-7), and he served on the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority’s Museum Committee between 2014 and 2016. From 2016 to 2022 he served on the Board of M+ Collections Limited, a non-profit entity which holds the legal interest in the artworks of M+ for the benefit of the Hong Kong community. In addition to his local contribution he has also served on the College Art Association’s International Committee. Another overseas role he has played is as a member of the External Review Panel, Arts Quality Assurance Framework, for the Singapore Ministry of Education (2018-2020).
Clarke is the founder and academic director of the Hong Kong Art Archive, a free-to-access visual and textual archive of information about Hong Kong art. See: https://arthistory.hku.hk/hkaa/
An online video archive containing free access to 73 of his art history lectures is available at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsYxtdAdqBSfNEVf2Y9WsN1YyOe-5G52i and at: http://hub.hku.hk/handle/10722/246654
An extended video interview with Clarke offering coverage of both his academic and artistic work can be found on the Hong Kong Arts Development Council's Oral History and Archives Project website at: https://artsoralhistory.hk/en/interviewee-details/r0548807D2I/interview-video/r0548807D2I
For information about Clarke’s academic publications, including some freely-accessible full texts, see: http://hub.hku.hk/cris/rp/rp01181
For information about Clarke’s artwork see: https://arthistory.hku.hk/hkaa/clarke
Further information about certain past visual art projects can be found at: https://arthistory.hku.hk/david-j-clarke/a-portfolio