A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR

TitleA JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
ClientPARA SITE
Product / ServiceART EXHIBITION
CategoryB04. Non-Corporate
EntrantFLEISHMAN-HILLARD HONG KONG, HONG KONG
PR Agency FLEISHMAN-HILLARD HONG KONG, HONG KONG
Entrant Company FLEISHMAN-HILLARD HONG KONG, HONG KONG

The Campaign

Founded in 1996, Para Site is Hong Kong's leading contemporary art space and one of the oldest and most active independent art centers in Asia. In May of this year, Para Site launched its exhibition titled A Journal of the Plague Year, which used the SARS epidemic as a starting point to trace a decade of different narratives, historical backgrounds and implications of these events in relation to the contemporary culture and politics of Hong Kong and its neighbors, near and far. The works by the 28 artists, including China’s Ai Weiwei, were outspoken in addressing urgent issues such as the relationship between Hong Kong and Mainland China and major controversies such as the milk powder scandal. Ahead of the exhibition’s opening, Para Site launched a media relations campaign to raise awareness of the exhibition’s guiding philosophy and to encourage public discussion about the role of art in capturing the impact of seminal events on a city. Leveraging a variety of media materials, interviews with the exhibition’s artists and curators and numerous photo opportunities, the campaign focused on bringing reflections on Hong Kong’s history to the rest of the world. The show received nearly 300 clippings in less than two months in every regional and international media outlet and was hailed by Hans Ulrich Obrist, one of the world’s leading critics, as “an exceptional group show that is vital for the region and the world.”

The Brief

The goal of Para Site’s media relations campaign to promote A Journal of the Plague Year was to put Para Site on the world map as a critical institution. Through the exhibition, Para Site wanted to contribute to a public discussion about the role of the arts in society, strengthening the idea that contemporary arts play a special role in creating open and pluralistic societies. Specifically, the campaign aimed to: • Create buzz ahead of the exhibition opening • Achieve Local and regional media coverage on the significance of the exhibition • Create long-term momentum for the subject of the exhibition

Results

The level of media exposure that Para Site achieved is unprecedented for Hong Kong and would be considered a staggering success for any major exhibition of the best-known, well-funded museums of any metropolis in the world. Media coverage valued in excess of US$500,000 • 141 individual clippings in more than 121 media outlets • Front page coverage in the South China Morning Post • Coverage in top-tier media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Reuters, BBC and the Financial Times • Performance art Divisor featured in multiple top-tier media as picture of the day Hundreds attended the opening and thousands of people from Hong Kong and beyond came through Para Site’s doors to see the show • In-depth coverage to foster ongoing discussion about the show’s themes • International audiences introduced to critical works in Hong Kong • Media interviews further articulated Para Site’s mission as an art institution

Execution

Star-power to generate buzz Para Site conducted outreach and arranged for pre-opening interviews with the show’s curators as well as with featured artists such as Ai Weiwei, who talked with media about the show’s unveiling of his controversial new sculpture and how it was inspired by the milk powder debate. Throughout its outreach, Para Site aimed to capitalize on the enthusiasm surrounding the much-anticipated Asian debut of the world's premier international art fair, Art Basel, which was inspiring new dialogues between art collectors, artists, dealers, curators, critics and art lovers from an Asian perspective. Medium is the message To further drive awareness, Para Site took advantage of live performances to generate compelling visuals that could be shared with local and international media. This included 80 participants activating a large swath of white fabric on the streets of Hong Kong in a re-performance of Brazilian artist Lygia Pape’s Divisor live sculpture.

The Situation

Para Site was Hong Kong's first institution of contemporary art and a crucial self-organized structure within the city’s civil society, during the uncertain period preceding its handover to Mainland China. A Journal of the Plague Year was Para Site’s most high-profile show to date, with a variety of works by local and international artists to navigate through disparate though interconnected narratives and to contribute to a critical discussion about Hong Kong's recent history. The challenge was how could Para Site leverage its limited resources to both encourage local participation and gain world attention for the critical aspects of the show?

The Strategy

The objective was to highlight how A Journal of the Plague Year was the first exhibit ever to exclusively feature art inspired by some of the tragic events that led to unprecedented changes in Hong Kong’s culture, economy, and politics. Strategies were employed to ensure different levels of learning and participation for Para Sites’ various audiences, including art critics, art professionals, the general public, local and international media and students from Hong Kong universities. • Encourage debate: showcase the more provocative artworks from A Journal of the Plague Year to garner interest during media outreach • Create awareness: engage critics, media and potential visitors through interviews with the exhibition’s artists and curators as well as the staging of live street performances • Drive participation: target key local media outlets for expansive and highly visible coverage • Create momentum: forge a critical understanding of Hong Kong’s history through artistic interpretation and discussion

Credits

Name Company Position
Rachel Catanach Fleishmanhillard Svp/Managing Director/Senior Partner