It is hard to put into words the profound changes that 2020 has brought, but its impact has certainly been felt, by all of us. In Hong Kong and many parts of the world, we struggle to reckon with a new order, and we have seen what we have come to know changed in its entirety. In this difficult year, we cannot help but be reminded of Para Site’s beginning as a self-organised space for artists in a period of uncertainty, in 1996 as Hong Kong prepared for its handover. It is more pertinent than ever that we remind ourselves of art’s unique power to bring communities together, to foster dialogue, and to imagine a better tomorrow. For this, we are extremely grateful and humbled by the support we have received from artists, galleries, and individuals in Hong Kong and elsewhere, who all believe passionately in art’s future and in the need for the spaces that nurture it to continue thriving.
While many activities in the arts ground to a halt, Para Site has strived to provide continued access to our programmes and support for emerging talent, especially artists who have been left vulnerable by derailed plans. In May, we launched the new initiative PS Paid Studio Visits, which has supported over 40 local artists to date with a studio visit fee and one month of health insurance coverage for every virtual visit conducted with Para Site team members, and the list is only growing. We would also like to take this occasion to share the recent announcement of our establishment of a new grant for Hong Kong artists, NoExit Grant for Unpaid Artistic Labour, generously supported by an anonymous donor, giving more substantial subsidy for artists to keep on with their creative practices at a crucial time when support is wanting overall.
As with every year, this year’s auction will contribute to a large percentage of our budget in the forthcoming year to ensure the continuation and development of our exhibitions as well as our public and educational programmes. Even in harsh times, Para Site is proud to present our precursor exhibition to the Kathmandu Triennale 2077, Garden of Six Seasons, whose production would not be possible without the success of last year’s auction. We also completed The Archive Project after two years of research and organisation, producing a coded inventory of photographs and recordings, interviews, and other valuable materials from Para Site’s extensive history of exhibitions and programmes. Free and available for public access, the online archive is a helpful overview of broader change in these tumultuous decades in Hong Kong and in the global contemporary art system.
We have not been able to travel, but our exhibitions are currently on tour, extending our presence from Hong Kong to other places around the globe. Shown in our space in 2018, A beast, a god, and a line exhibited at Kunsthall Trondheim, Norway, earlier this year and which recently opened at MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum in Chiang Mai; also opening this month after its iterations in Nuku’alofa and Hong Kong is Koloa: Women, Art, and Technology, now on view at Artspace Aotearoa in Auckland. In a similar vein, our prestigious intensive Workshops for Emerging Art Professionals (to which over 40 international talents applied) were held entirely online this year. We worked with 13 curators and arts professionals of tomorrow from Hong Kong and abroad, providing invaluable learning and growing opportunities despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic. These participants will be invited to join our in-person workshops in Hong Kong again when the situation allows.
All of our programmes have been mediated to a diverse audience through a record number of public events and multilingual tours for students and members of the general public. Our programmes have also pivoted to an online format to encourage ongoing education and dialogue whilst accommodating social distancing measures this year. While in many parts of the world, audience numbers have dwindled as institutions remain closed, at Para Site, our audiences have actually increased, seeing new audiences in Hong Kong crossing our doorstep for the first time, strengthening our connection to the local community. These achievements would not be possible without the tremendous generosity of our patrons and supporters.
All the while, Para Site has been a pioneering institution in the fair pay of artists, offering artist fees and health insurance to all its collaborators. As part of an effort to expand social protections for artists, last year, we started covering medical insurance costs for all Hong Kong artists working for Para Site projects (including those working on donations for the fundraising auction), covering both the production and exhibition periods. And because we would like you to know exactly the figures behind these plans and how your support translates into our work, we are listing below a few examples of the costs that go into these projects:
HK$ 3,500—artist fee for participating in one of our group exhibitions
HK$ 5,000—artist medical and dental insurance coverage for half a year
HK$ 10,000—electricity in the gallery for one month
HK$ 20,000—sponsorship of a young professional to attend our annual workshops
HK$ 50,000—production of Para Site’s booth in Art Basel featuring a young artist
HK$ 70,000—production of a newly commissioned installation work
HK$ 100,000—production costs for annual public programmes and events
HK$ 150,000—printing of a major Para Site publication
HK$ 500,000—production of a regular Para Site exhibition or the entire budget for the NoExit Grant for Unpaid Artistic Labour
We would thus like to thank again all of you for supporting us; to all the artists, galleries, and friends who have donated an unprecedented set of works recognising the need for essential support in an unprecedented year, to our expanding family of Global Council Members, Founding Friends, Friends, and Associates, as well as to our Board and Advisors, who have made our past year possible and the future bright. Special gratitude goes to our Auction Hotel Partner the St. Regis, Hong Kong; our Auction Preview Venue Partner Soho House Hong Kong and to Akarin Gaw; our Conviviality Partner Gelardini & Romani; our auctioneer Jehan Chu; and event designers Gemma Blest and Dawn Luk. We are also thankful to the following organisations for their support: Artsy, Brinks Fine Arts Services, Circle Asia, and TAPevents. Last, but certainly not least, our heartfelt and special thanks to Shane Akeroyd and Virginia Yee for generously hosting the auction gala.
Executive Director and Curator