Hong Kong Nights

Hong Kong may be known as an Eastern capitol of business and commerce, but this week, thanks to 28-year-old Pablo Ganguli and his Liberatum festival, the city will play host to an impressive array of cultural events. Liberatum Hong Kong, a free, three-day public festival that will bring together creative minds from across the globe to participate in dialogues about arcitecture, design, art, film, and fashion with music and art performances, opens April 27–29, with a conversation between its headliner Pharrell Williams and music producer Will Orbit (best known for working with Madonna). “He was a natural choice to headline the festival. I didn’t even have to think long and hard about it. He’s an American visionary,” says Ganguli of Pharrell, whose expertise span not only music, but also fashion and design.
Ganguli launched the Liberatum initiative, which aims to unite global cultural and media minds and strengthen cultural diplomacy through the arts, 11 years ago when he was only 17. Since, he has gone on to host events in Russia, India, Morocco, and Papua New Guinea. For the past two years, he presented the highly acclaimed Istancool festival, which, featuring work and talks by everyone from Tilda Swinton and Haider Ackermann to Courtney Love and Ryan McGinley, was a smash hit amongst the international jet set.
But while Istancool was more about glitz and glamour, Ganguli asserts that the Hong Kong festival focuses on a serious, cerebral exchange between a diverse range of creatives. Considering day two kicks off with a talk by Nobel Prize-winning author Sir VS Naipaul, it would seem that Ganguli is going in the right direction.
As for the location, Ganguli has had Hong Kong on his mind for quite some time. “Hong Kong is an island of dreams and hope. It connects the East and the West. And I feel it has huge potential,” he says. Indeed, it’s an interesting time to bring such an extensive cultural festival to the city, which has, in the past, been described as a metropolis devoid of a strong artistic presence. However, with the recent influx of galleries (Gagosian opened his first Hong Kong post last year, and French gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin will launch his new gallery in the city next month with a KAWS show), as well a massive in-progress cultural center to be designed by British architect Norman Foster, all that is beginning to change.
Working in collaboration with Chinese-born pianist, composer and curator, Rosey Chan, Ganguli says he aims to, “present an inspiring and captivating cultural platform for the city and its residents, especially the young creatives.” He adds, “I hope to connect talented Hong Kong and Chinese artistic minds with their counterparts in Europe and America.” For example, the festival will include a conversation between renowned Hong Kong architect Andre Fu and Perrotin about creating art spaces, as well as a live photo shoot with filmmaker Mike Figgis (best known for Leaving Las Vegas) and Hong Kong photographers Earl Wan and Wing Shya. Other features include screenings of rare short films by Guy Bourdin, a talk by Paul Schrader about storytelling in new media and a performance by eccentric Spanish actress and muse, Rossy de Palma. “It is vital for me to travel, connect and celebrate different artistic disciplines so that we are all better informed, more knowledgeable and enriched,” says Ganguli. “What could be more beautiful than to understand different cultures and play a little part in it?”