At the height of Hong Kong’s manufacturing boom in the 1960s and 1970s, the SAR was the biggest exporter of toys in the world. But the industry declined as factories moved north in the late 90s.
It was revived during the pop art fashion trend in the 90s, as art toys, a mix of pop art and street culture, became hits worldwide.
In the K11 X Streams Let’s Pop exhibition, the art platform’s first collaboration with a shopping mall, five local artists feature among the 10 creators introduced.
“Art toys are more than just children’s toys,” said Streams creative director Bosco Yau. “Many people may not understand why art toys can sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but if we know the artists’ ideas and the stories behind them, we can see their value.”
Art toys have a universal appeal as it is difficult to tell where the artists are from based on the character. “But when it comes to details other than character design, such as costumes and colors, artists tend to retain local features,” Yau said.
Mr Giraffe, created by local illustrator Kafka Poon, tells the story of a white-collar giraffe who commutes to work every day to make a living. Although he enjoys working at the zoo, his hangdog expression and dispirited demeanor convey a sadness that resonates with people in their everyday life.
The Unfortunate Garden, created by local illustrator Kazy Chan, consists of 10 characters inspired by his daily life, such as a runaway eraser carrying luggage on a desk covered by DSE test papers, an octopus-shaped sausage on a dinner plate and a ball of dust in the corner at Chan’s home.
Babedu, created by Karen Kei, is closely related to the city’s Covid-19 outbreak. Her pouting face gives the impression that she is not happy but this is not the case. “Babedu is a baby girl who never grows up and is eager to feel care and attention,” Kei said.
A couple of Babedus wearing swimsuits with the words “Stay Home” and “With Me” are one of the artist’s latest creations.
“Putting the swim ring under her feet is just one of the strange things Babedu does to get people’s attention,” Kei said. “What I want to say is to look beyond the superficial and be more concerned with what’s inside.”
The exhibition at chi K11 art space on the B2 floor at K11 Art Mall, which was planned to run until August 30, is temporarily closed because of the latest Covid-19 surge, but the pop-up store on G floor will remain open until September 6.
A two-meter-tall Smurfface art toy created by Swiss street artist BustArt takes center place for the show, the first time Streams has collaborated with artists outside Asia. The store features over 20 worldwide premiere art toy styles and an interactive AR experience.
Eight augmented-reality characters have been set up in 10 spots around the mall, including Skulltoons The Pino by Austrian artist Theodoru sauntering around, the Smurfface dripping paint all over and Babedu shooting balloons far from the sky.
Visitors who locate all the hidden AR art toy characters, snap a picture and upload them to Instagram with hashtag #K11LetsPOP can redeem a special prize.
(This article was published at The Standard on July 24, 2020: Weekend Glitz: Toys that go pop )