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Asia Society Hong Kong Center Opens with a Bang

Asia Society Hong Kong Center Opens with a Bang

HONG KONG, February 9, 2012 — Asia Society made history today with the Grand Opening of its new state-of-the-art home in Hong Kong.

Leaders, staff and supporters of the 56-year-old institution, along with leaders of Hong Kong, gathered in the Jockey Club Former Explosives Magazine to celebrate, with great excitement, the opening of the new Asia Society Hong Kong Center.

The complex — made up of new and restored British military colonial buildings — has been in the works for over a decade. Its opening marks a new era for both the Asia Society and the territory. It is the first time the Society has established cultural and exhibition facilities of its own in Asia.

Celebrations kicked off when a local group, Drum Jam, treated more than 400 guests to a performance incorporating styles from China, India, Korea, and the Philippines. The drumming was an apt and eloquent symbol for the Asia Society, as it conveyed both the importance of recognizing cultural differences, and the ability to find a common artistic vision and heritage across those differences. It was also an elegant performance with virtuosic dimensions.

Asia Society's global Co-Chairs, Ronnie Chan and Henrietta Fore, stepped up to the podium and warmly welcomed guests and inaugurate the day.

Speaking first in Cantonese, then Mandarin, and finally in English, Chan  who is also Asia Society's Hong Kong Chairman — gave gracious thanks and outlined his vision: "We are a platform for intellectual and cultural exchanges. No one institution can meet all the needs of society, but we are privileged to be here to do our part ... perhaps not so small!"

Fore said it was an important day for Asia Society and the SAR.

"Hong Kong has been an historic place for us, and now it is the mark of the future," she said. "This fascinating building will be a home from which we can talk across cultures and miles. We wish to have discussions that are exciting, art and music that is beautiful, and friendships that are lasting."

T. Brian Stevenson, the Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club (a major donor for the project), then said a few words, "It's easy to preserve a building, but to revitalize it is another thing. The Asia Society has done a wonderful job of marrying the old and the new. We are so proud to have our name attached to this amazing new facility."

Finally, Asia Society President Vishakha Desai noted, "It's not just about the building, but what we do inside. That takes ingenuity, innovation, and commitment not just from Asia Society, but from all of you. I can't thank you enough Hong Kong, our leaders from the government and the private sector, who had the dedication, perseverance and commitment to make this a reality. And, I have no doubt the best is yet to come."

Following the speeches, the three speakers gathered onstage. With them were Edith Ngai Chan, Asia Society Hong Kong's Executive Director, C.H. Tung, Hong Kong's former Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, the current Chief Executive, and Charles Rockefeller, the grandson of Asia Society's founder the late John D. Rockefeller 3rd.

The group counted backwards from three, then golden streamers shot of two replica two cannons, and the ribbon was cut. It was an explosive opening to a new era.

Watch a video of the grand opening below.(38 min., 30 sec.)

Reported by Maddie Gressel, Hong Kong.

February 9, 2012
by Bill Swersey