Macau Art Space: Lun Hing Knitting Factory

Just a brisk walk from the Ox Warehouse is another one of Macau’s contemporary art spaces: the Lun Hing Knitting Factory. When I arrived, a group of old people sat in the lobby playing mahjong as the security guard watched idly. There’s little to indicate the presence of artists, when I took the lift up to the third floor, I found the spacious new home of AFA Macau, an arts organization set up by six artists to host exhibitions, give artists space to work and promote Macau artists abroad.

Photographer James Chu Cheok-son and sculptor Wong Ka Long are two of AFA’s founding artists. “The art market in Macau is not well-developed — there are virtually no galleries,” said Chu as we sat at a table near the back of the gallery. AFA was established in 2007 when it opened artists’ studios and a gallery in partnership with a bar and restaurant next to the ruins of St. Paul’s. Last year, though, the financial crisis and decline in tourism took a toll on the restaurant’s business and AFA was forced to leave. It opened in the Knitting Factory late last year; they share the space with Macau Creative, a design group that often incorporates the work of Macau artists into its work.

“Before the handover, there were a lot of Portuguese here and they were willing to buy art,” Chu told me. “After, the Chinese officials wanted to create a happy environment with lots of activities for tourists, but they didn’t see the need to cultivate an art market. I see a lot of artists my age who had the potential to become full-time artists, but they gave up. It was too difficult. Now they’re art-lovers but not artists.”

Chu, a former official in the Macau government’s cultural affairs department, has been worked as an artist for 20 years, during which time he has played a part in almost every major initiative in the Macau arts scene. There’s only about 30 artists in Macau, just 10 of which work full-time, he said. “Macau is so small — you can see our names everywhere.”

That kind of intimacy can lead to some productive collaborations, but it also makes it easy to step on each others’ toes. Chu, along with several other artists including Lei, was one of the founders of the Old Ladies’ House, a contemporary arts space. After inviting Hong Kong-based political cartoonist Zun Zi to participate in an exhibition, though, the Macau government withdrew its funding and the space’s owner kicked them out.

“We all rely on government subsidies, so we can’t be too critical,” said Wong. “It’s too bad, because a lot of people are upset with the government.”

AFA rents space to 20 artists and designers. Each one reflects the character of its occupant and the nature of their work. Wong’s studio, filled with paint and debris, smelled like plastic. Walking in, he picked up a new polyester-and-linen sculpture, an owl. “It’s a new baby. This is the first time out of its cast,” he said.

Wong grew up in Macau and studied sculpture in Guangzhou. His dad is a watercolour painter, and he encouraged him to study art, but when his mom found out what he wanted to do, she wasn’t impressed. “Half of my family was upset about it,” he said. “They wanted me to go into something more practical like design.”

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Sunday September 26 2010at 06:09 am , filed under Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Politics, Society and Culture and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to “Macau Art Space: Lun Hing Knitting Factory”

  • Ange Wayne says:

    Cool place you have here. The space is great and good enough to make a special work of art. The portraits are nice and the feelings of the person painted is seen.