It would have been a just another rags-to-riches tale -- except that the protagonist died before he reached true celebrity status.
street artist Tsang Tsou-choi, a welfare-receiving pariah, was initially
dismissed as crazy for plastering the Kowloon peninsula of Hong Kong with
rambling graffiti in which he declared his claims to the ruling class.
that his ancestors had been royalty who were deeded land rights to that part of
Hong Kong, and his calligraphic rants spelled out details of his family
history, as if to publicly prove that the moniker he'd given himself -- the
King of Kowloon -- was true.
these diatribes on whatever surface he could find, from walls to lamp posts, and
then the government would promptly paint over them. It was only in his later
years, when he became too ill to leave his nursing home, that he put pen to actual
paper. Though he gained some prominence before his death in 2007, including an
inclusion in the 2003 Venice Biennale, it's unlikely he was ever completely
aware that he was on the road to recognition as a contemporary artist.
exhibition at Saamlung, an intimate gallery
founded just last year, collected 22
of Tsang's works and is showcasing them until 11 February. Among the
creative platforms Tsang used to convey his harangues is a map of Hong Kong that
he covered in calligraphy, as well as an umbrella and two paper lanterns. The
bold, distinctive character for "king" can be seen peppered
throughout his works.
placing the calligraphy in the context of street art and design, "we are
showing the works as art and sculpture pieces", said Natasha Whiffin, the
browsing the pieces themselves, make sure to peruse the large prints on display
that photographer and art critic Lau Kin-wai took of Tsang and his
(unintentional) masterpieces. They reveal a shabbily dressed man, hunched over
a pair of crutches, painstakingly wielding a brush full of black paint to cover
surfaces with text, all in the name of asserting ownership of what he believed was
Saamlung, some of Tsang's works sell for hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong dollars.
Perhaps Tsang was right after all -- if not about his bloodline, than about his
Hana R Alberts is the
Hong Kong Localite for BBC Travel