Hong Kong’s ‘Chubby Hearts’ art installation organiser says it hopes project will spread message of love in city and enhance space

Hong Kong’s ‘Chubby Hearts’ art installation organiser says it hopes project will spread message of love in city and enhance space

Love is in the air, literally, in Hong Kong with giant hearts floating in Central and other parts of the city becoming an insta-hit among visitors.

But organisers of the “Chubby Hearts” art installation in the city, the project’s first exhibition outside Britain, said they hoped the project could go beyond selfies and serve to spread the message of love in the community.

Anya Hindmarch, the British designer behind the giant heart-shaped balloon set to float in Central’s Statue Square Gardens from Valentine’s Day until February 24, said the piece was meant to be placemaking art.

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British fashion designer Anya Hindmarch. The Hong Kong installation is the first exhibition outside Britain. Photo: Handout

“It’s an art piece within the landscape, and if you look at the heart now, it’s incredible with all that architecture around it, it very much just becomes part of the place that it’s in,” she said.

Hindmarch, known for her tongue-in-cheek handbags, accessories, and stores under her eponymous label across the world, previously displayed the Chubby Hearts project in her home country’s capital in 2018, 2019 and 2022.

The Hong Kong installation, brought to the city on invitation from the Hong Kong Design Centre, is four times larger than the previous editions.

“It’s not an easy project. It looks easy, but it’s hard,” said Sam Lam Mei-wah, the centre’s projects director.

“It’s very difficult technically because basically this is an installation that is easily influenced by weather,” she said, adding the height of the heart needed to be adjusted from time to time according to wind conditions.

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But artistically, the organisers said the project’s message was simple and easy to understand.

“We’ve remained very true to the original project, which was important,” Hindmarch said. “I think simplicity is the beauty.

“We talked a lot about adding extra elements, but in the end, we just felt it does what it does. It just makes people smile, so that’s enough.”

Lam added: “It really transcends a sense of empathy. Especially for Chinese people, as a society, we seldom really express ourselves and say ‘I love you’ … even to your family, your boyfriend, your husband, your wife.

“But I guess when people see this project, they will say, ‘Yes, I can bring my family for photos’, so this can be [expressed through] action.”

The project’s simple message also made it easy to get approval from government departments and landlords, Lam said.

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“Basically, they just said, ‘Yes, I love it’,” she added. “I’ve never encountered a project like this. I think it’s just very easy for them to understand.

“Sharing love and sharing joy … we need it.”

Besides the largest heart in Central, measuring 12 metres (39 feet) in diameter, multiple smaller ones were scheduled to make “pop-up” appearances at various locations around the city, including Mong Kok’s flower market and Lam Tsuen in Tai Po on Wednesday, as well as the Maritime Museum on Thursday.

Lam said the locations were chosen to reflect the city’s culture.

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The Chubby Hearts installation at Statue Square Gardens in Central. Photo: Sam Tsang

David Webb, a shareholder activist of Hong Kong-listed companies, alleged there was a conflict of interest over the approval of the funds for the art event.

The project is supported by the government’s Mega Arts and Cultural Events Fund, whose committee chairman is Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, who is also the CEO and executive vice-chairman of New World Development.

Webb said Cheng was apparently using taxpayers’ money to promote Hindmarch’s business as part of efforts to stimulate rental income of the mall he had an interest in.

There is a Hindmarch kiosk at K11 MUSEA mall in Tsim Sha Tsui. The designer also has stand-alone stores in Central and Causeway Bay.

The mall, which offers products from about 300 global brands, is owned by New World.

A spokeswoman for the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau said committee members were mandated to submit proposals to the government over mega events and all of them had declared potential conflicts of interest.

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