Extended! ‘The Empty Gallery’ in Hong Kong offers Asian debut of Edward S. Curtis photos –Till March 5

A visit to Hong Kong’s Empty Gallery is a jarring sensory and emotional experience, but not in a way you might expect.



A visit to The Empty Gallery in Hong Kong is a jarring sensory and emotional experience, but not in the way you might expect.

Don’t be deterred when the lift opens on the 19th floor to inky blackness– it’s all part of the experience. Take heart there is indeed a fabulous gallery waiting to be discovered beyond the apparent black abyss, and grope your way to the left. If all else fails, give them a ring (as this avid art watcher did, wondering, could this really be the right place?) and they’ll kindly let you in to a dimly lit interior. Your adventures will be rewarded with one of the most unique gallery experiences out there, all in complete darkness. (Yes, I might have bumped into a wall once..)

The Empty Gallery
Image courtesy of The Empty Gallery.


‘Gallery in the dark’

The Empty Gallery’s concept of a ‘gallery in the dark’ at first seems surprising– after all, how does one encounter visual art in the dark?! And yet, elevating the experience of art by isolating the senses is precisely the mission of this unusual art space, which comprises an impressive 3,000 square feet in the industrial Tin Wan neighborhood of Hong Kong’s South Island Cultural District. Impeccably precise spotlights provide the only light to view the artworks, creating a meditative atmosphere that forsakes all distraction. The Empty Gallery is remarkable in its dedicated approach to experiencing art in darkness, and is perhaps the only gallery of its kind– a representative of The Empty Gallery shares:

“We haven’t heard of any other place to have similar concept as gallery-in-the-dark… We are quite unique in this sense.”

‘The Man Who Sleeps On His Breath’

The current show of Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) photogravures, ‘The Man Who Sleeps On His Breath,’ is eerily well-suited for the gallery’s somber atmosphere. Complete with a commissioned otherworldly soundscape by Italian electroacoustic musician Valerio Tricoli, both sight and sound allude to the mystery and tragedy of the North American Indian’s tale. Be aware though, collectors hoping to procure a historically significant Edward S. Curtis photogravure print will be disappointed, as the pieces on view are part of the gallery owner’s private collection and not for sale, although works from previous shows have been available to buyers. This is the third exhibition offered by The Empty Gallery, which opened in March 2015.

Edward S. Curtis, The Empty Gallery
Image courtesy of The Empty Gallery.

A complete acquisition

In a triumphant acquisition of a key creative project documenting American history, the owner of The Empty Gallery, Stephen Cheng, managed to obtain the entire 700-plus work, 20-volume set of the fabled American photographer’s ‘North American Indian’ series. Of this impressive procurement, Cheng tells the South China Morning Post:

“It is the greatest photography project of all times. I jumped at the chance to  buy the whole portfolio… The photographs are problematic from an ethnographic or anthropological point of view, but I am most interested in the artist Curtis… The images are magical.”

Debut of Edward S. Curtis in Asia

The Empty Gallery confirms this to be the first exhibition in Asia showing Curtis’ original prints. The gallery aims to share a selection of the more obscure images from the collection which highlight Curtis’s mastery of visual styling and photographic skill, expanding awareness beyond the familiar ‘Geronimo’ portraiture for which he is commonly known. Commissioned in 1906 by American financier J.P. Morgan and the U.S. government, the project encompassed more than 20 years and documented the last gasps of a culture slipping away. Although the photographs have received criticism from ethnohistorians for Curtis’s questionable biographical practices– essentially documenting modern, marginalized 20th-century people ‘dressing up’ in their long-castaway cultural relics– his body of work remains the finest, most dedicated photographic impressions of the indigenous peoples of North America, a culture lost. Set within the unique darkness of The Empty Gallery, this is a notable, must-see show.

On till March 5, 2016– catch it while you can. And word to the wise: take lift #4.

The Empty Gallery
19/F, Grand Marine Industrial Building
3 Yue Fung Street
Tin Wan, Hong Kong
t. 2563 3396

November 7, 2015-March 5, 2016

Related Posts:


Follow @Urban_DNA on Instagram for a running feed of art in Hong Kong.