The Art and Curating of Oscar Ho


Hong Kong lacks research-based exhibitions. Moreover, people tend to overlook contributions made by mid-career artists. In response to the insufficiency of the Hong Kong contemporary art scene, Para/Site Art Space has initiated and developed a series of retrospective exhibitions for established local artists since 2002. Oscar Ho is the fourth artist of this series.

Educated in the United States and returning to Hong Kong in the 1980s, Oscar organised non-traditional exhibitions with other artists. Together they brought art activities to local community and questioned high art in the institutional art spaces. In general, it is easier to criticize than to take action to improve the institution. However, Oscar joined the institution, reformed the institution and supplemented the inadequacy of the institution.

Oscar started to take up the job as Exhibition Director of the Hong Kong Arts Centre in 1988 and continued to work there for more than10 years and had organised about 100 exhibitions. Most of the exhibitions were classified as "unwanted" by the official exhibition spaces such as those on photography, pop art and Hong Kong art research. They have indeed enlarged the scope of art. While Ho provided opportunities for young artists by starting a Manulife Young Artists Series, he also brought in overseas art exhibitions that had discussable value to Hong Kong.

Oscar is a cultural interpreter. He depicts the cultural scene in Hong Kong and broadens the purview of the discussion on the local cultural phenomenon. For example, he organised exhibitions to initiate the discussion of cultural identities of Hong Kong people before 1997.

Oscar is also a provocative curator. Examples include his showing of the "obscene" sculpture New Man in the Hong Kong Arts Center to generate the discussion of art censorship and his turning programming to a creative act, as evidenced in the exhibitions he curated about "Lo Ting" which partly fabricated the history of Hong Kong.

Oscar is an artist, art critic and art educator. He was once a Hong Kong art policy planner. He had taken multiple roles but would not be bound by any one of them. He is always creative and critical. When he was the committee member of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, he coordinated with other committee members to issue a statement to criticize the decision made by the Obscene Articles Tribunal, which is not a common practice for a member of a statutory body. When he was one of the adjudicators of the Hong Kong Art Biennial, he requested to change the rules of the game by allowing an adjudicator to recommend a work to the show so that the recommendation list need not always need to base on a group decision; this proposal was nevertheless being turned down by the Hong Kong Museum of Art with his article taken away from the exhibition catalogue. He is now a free lancer, and his focused research on Asian Art started a new page of his career.

Oscar reiterates that he doesn't wish to have any retrospective show because he thinks that he has just started his career. However, to have a review on such a serious artist and his journey of being a professional curator could be inspiring to the recent discussion of the roles of curator.

To avoid 'the conflict of interest', Oscar seldom has his work shown locally. In the present exhibition at Para/Site, however, he will show his art works together with his "creative" objects, including props and documentation of exhibitions. Audiences are invited to have an overall view of his creative world.

Phoebe Man
Founding Member of Para/Site Art Space