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About this project 

Timelines and chronological thinking

Chronology is our mental scaffolding for organizing historical reasoning. It provides us with a strong sense of the continuity and incidences of time – of when things happened – in order to understand historical causality. The Hong Kong Art History (HKAH) Timeline project is the first to provide a temporal map tracing events from the 1930s to the present. It includes relevant social and political events that have shaped the art world including the making of museums, government policies and shifts in financial or educational sectors. We aim to show how time is always in action, whether in linear directions or alternative patterns where time pauses, reflects or return. This project currently has over 400 entries and an ambition to grow in the future with contributions from our students and friends of the Department of Art History at HKU.

We acknowledge, however, that our Mothership timeline provides an overview that excludes more than it includes. Moreover, with linear timelines there is also the assumption of advances and progress, but developments can also take the shape of departures and loss. It is with the understanding of this, that we have also launched the first of five smaller “satellites.” These are case studies by students from the Hong Kong Art Workshop class (in partnership with Asia Art Archives) who explore the inconsistencies, overlaps and disruptions to speak about issues such as independent art spaces in relationship to activism, women artists as institutional builders, the presence (and absence) of minorities in Hong Kong’s art world, the development of art criticism and the relationship between grassroot art education practices and local knowledge. The aim of these smaller projects is to build different thresholds from which others may discover new ideas for future research. They also operate as standalone projects that collectively help to form the moving parts of a history of Hong Kong art.

The Department of Art History recognizes the importance of sharing, and this website is an open-access tool which we hope will be an entrance point for meaningful conversations about Hong Kong art history. We invite comments and feedbacks that are made in the spirit of critical sharing and hive-minds to help us identify any mistakes we might have made. We also ask any usage of information found on this site to follow international practice of citation.  

How it all began...

If we have to trace the beginning of this timeline project, it began with a workshop, held at Asia Art Archives, on Teaching Hong Kong Art History in 2015 and many scholars’ frustrations of how often it was believed to be impossible. Part of that myth of impossibilities was the parsity of secondary literature but there was also a debate regarding who gets to write a survey history of Hong Kong art or whether we need a survey book in order to study Hong Kong art. This timeline project, produced by students of HKU and colleagues of AAA, is a response to the challenge. It is a structure designed to help visualize the possibilities of different narratives of Hong Kong art history.

More specifically, this HKAH timeline project began life in the classroom in 2020. It was an accidental project that emerged from the disruptions caused by COVID-19. The question of how to position what is Hong Kong in a post-pandemic world with shifting world powers has prompted us to make this timeline project as a response to the urgency of recording historical moments that are dynamic, slippery as well as those that are foundational to the role of art, its institutions, communities and people in Hong Kong post-2020.         

We would like to acknowledge our Department of Art History’s longstanding relationship with Asia Art Archives, and in particular to Michelle Wong and other members of the AAA’s research team, Collections and Development teams. The success of this project is a testimony to the importance of collaboration and generosity of AAA.

We would also like to express out deep gratitude to Kwai Fung Art Foundation for their generous support that helped us realize the Timeline.

There were also many other partners and friends who provided helpful feedback including those who attended the students’ presentations: Claire Hsu, Anqi Li, Alex Seno, Chris Mattison, and Caroline Chiu.

Dr Yeewan Koon

The University of Hong Kong Art History Department
Associate Professor and Chair of the Department

Supervisor of the Hong Kong Art Timeline Project