Restoration of King of Kowloon’s Graffiti Art Spotlights Hong Kong’s Cultural Heritage

Restoration of King of Kowloon’s Graffiti Art Spotlights Hong Kong’s Cultural Heritage

A momentous discovery of cultural significance in Hong Kong has brought the late artist Tsang Tsou-choi, also known as the ‘King of Kowloon,’ back into the spotlight. A large piece of his calligraphic graffiti art, initially mistaken for vandalism, was found under a rail viaduct in Mong Kok. The MTR Corporation commissioned specialists to restore the artwork, which has now been recognized as a vital part of the city’s cultural heritage.

Unearthing the King’s Canvas

The graffiti, measuring 1.5 by 5 meters, showcases Tsang’s distinctive style of bold Chinese characters. Tsang, who began using the city’s public surfaces as his canvas from the 1950s to the early 2000s, claimed royal ancestry and often infused his work with anti-war and anti-colonial messages. After his death in 2007, the importance of preserving his works gained momentum, leading to the recent restoration project.

A Legacy in Letters

Despite his works being sold at high prices at auctions and displayed at prestigious international venues like the Venice Biennale, Tsang never saw himself as an artist. He lived modestly on government subsidies. Today, his art is part of Hong Kong’s visual culture museum M+ collection and has been featured in exhibitions that have drawn attention from the public and officials alike. The restored calligraphy in Mong Kok, however, faced challenges due to multiple layers of graffiti and environmental damage.

Preserving the Past

Despite the hurdles, the specialists commissioned by the MTR Corporation succeeded in preserving a significant layer of Tsang’s work. They added a protective coating to safeguard it against further deterioration. The hope is not to reduce the restored artwork to a mere tourist spot, but to underline the government’s past failures in protecting Tsang’s works and to highlight the importance of preserving such cultural treasures.

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