“Art Unboxed”: Xavier Mahé presents the 2022 edition of French May in Hong Kong

Ten people work all year round to organize a unique cultural festival: the French May festival. These people work hard and are responsible for the organization of exhibitions, live performances, marketing, fundraising and other missions for the implementation of this event which will start on April 28 and will end at the end of June. Today, we meet the conductor of this team, Mr. Xavier Mahé, director of French May. He reveals the 2022 program to us, exposing the novelties and constraints this year.

A bit of history around the French May

Created in 1993, the French May is one of the biggest cultural events in Asia. With more than 100 programs presented over two months, it has become an iconic part of Hong Kong’s cultural scene that has reached over one million visitors since its inception.

The objectives of Le French May are as follows:

  • Touch everything while presenting the most diversified art forms: from heritage to contemporary arts, from painting to design, from classical music to hip-hop dance, from cinema to circus.
  • Be everywhere by offering shows in different places and neighborhoods, including the most unusual and unexpected: from cultural centers to shopping malls, including public spaces, the racecourse and the port of Victoria.
  • For everyone, because the festival aims to reach the whole community by developing educational programs, conferences, guided tours, workshops and masterclassesincluding those that directly benefit the young and the less privileged.

Le French May is both truly international and distinctly local and wishes to contribute to the unique appeal of Asia’s global city. The French May Arts Festival received the “Gold Award for Arts Promotion 2008” from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

Next year, the French May will celebrate its 30th anniversary: ​​an exceptional festival will be expected!

Art Unboxed – English May 2022

“A 2022 program that reinvents the French May”

What are we expecting for this 2022 festival? What is the program ?

Initially, the festival invites French artists to perform in Hong Kong. With closed borders and still mandatory quarantines, preparing for this festival has become a challenge since the start of the pandemic.

Failing to bring artists, the 2022 edition is based on collaborations with local artists or from France.

The 2022 edition is called ” ART UNBOXED “: because this year, the guideline of this festival is to shake up genres and artistic disciplines, ignore closed borders and finally reinvent itself. Below, a taste of what you can discover at this festival which includes around a hundred programs (non-exhaustive list):

  • I love you…me neither : two renowned groups from the Hong Kong jazz scene will pay tribute to Serge Gainsbourg
  • Carte Blanche to Christian Rizzo : French choreographer with an international career. Invited this year (as in 2019), but unfortunately unable to go to Hong Kong because of the current sanitary conditions, we offered him to invest the Free Space center in West Kowloon with an installation, film screenings, a remote conference and above all a choreography created remotely, with local dancers that will be produced for five days at Free Space.
  • Cities of Light : this is one of the most significant concerts of this 2022 festival, a concert by cantopop star, Gin Lee and jazz singer, Talie Monin, under composer and arranger Leon Ko. The two singers will perform a repertoire of French and Cantonese song, in Cantonese, English, Mandarin and French.
  • Small apple, by Jacques Offenbach interpreted by local artists.
  • Animal Free Theater : play by Jean-Michel Ribes (who won three Molières in 2001) adapted in Cantonese for local audiences.
  • From Baroque to Beatles, under the direction of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Tai Kwun Conversations – Notre Dame : an online conference that will explain the history of Notre-Dame de Paris and its renovation.
  • Mozart Oboe Concertounder the direction of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta by the prestigious Gabriel Pidoux.
  • French GourMay Rhômantic Bistronomy : the one and only major festival in Hong Kong and Macau dedicated to French gastronomy with the holding of a French GourMay Market at the Central Market
  • Sounds of the Seaagain under the direction of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra: the sea has always challenged and inspired composers and, in this concert, young Finnish conductor Taavi Oramo will take the HK Phil on a fantastic sea voyage through the imagination composers.
  • We also discover online programs with, among others, a circus company, theFratellini Academy and the National Center for Circus Arts Châlons-en-Champagne.
  • We will also be able to discover a program of cinemas on the theme of music, conferences on relations between Asia and the West and many other programs.

You can watch all the program on the site since April 21, 2022 and buy your tickets online.

“The organization of Le French May has suffered from the Covid crisis”

How did you manage to prepare for the festival despite the Covid measures?

Preparing for the festival was stressful. With the Covid measures in Hong Kong, the restrictions, the quarantines in force, the travel bans, cinema closings, we had to reinvent ourselves and be patient. Indeed, Carrie Lam only officially announced the reopening of theaters last week. This is the reason why the announcement of the festival is pronounced late this year.

The economic context is not simple either. The rooms only open with 50% capacity. This is a significant shortfall for the festival. Fortunately, we received unfailing support from our sponsors and in particular from French companies. We owe them a lot this year again.

Sponsors French May
Sponsors French May

“French May is an international and Hong Kong festival at the same time”

What is the French involvement in this festival? And Hong Kong? And international?

French involvement

The French community is very involved in culture: we have talented artists and major players in Hong Kong cultural life, including:

  • Daphne Mandel, visual artist. His exhibition will begin on April 30.
  • Regine Proietto’s dance school which will celebrate its 33rd anniversary.
  • The association Les enfants du Mékong, a charity exhibition will take place from April 28th to May 1st in order to raise funds to help this association.
  • The MAYAA association which will offer a musical journey combining pop, opera, gospel, flamenco and others.
  • sock b. who will present a poetic exhibition in his studio in Cheung Chau.

Hong Kong involvement

Artists and cultural institutions in Hong Kong are very much involved in the festival, to name the HK Phil, Sinfonietta Orchestra, many galleries such as Whitestone, Opera Gallery, Sin Sin Fine Art, Alisan Fine Art to name a few- one.

International involvement

Several international artists are exceptionally visiting the city, despite the sanitary measures in force and the quarantine, among them Jamal Aliyev, a brilliant young Turkish cellist who will perform with the Sinfonietta orchestra, the German conductor Robert Reimer, who will conduct the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

You are also a member of the jury of the Grand Prix France – Hong Kong, can we know what are your motivations?

This is a very fine initiative that echoes with the French May: promote initiatives that invite dialogue and bicultural exchanges between France and Hong Kong.

Grand Prix France – Hong Kong – Recall

The lepetitjournal.com team has decided to create a new event that highlights the collaboration between France and Hong Kong: the Grand Prix France – Hong Kong. (LINK ARTICLE) Any collaboration contributing positively to the influence, reputation or relationship of the two territories is eligible for the Grand Prix France – Hong Kong. Do not hesitate to apply before April 30, 2022.

For any additional information about the Grand Prix, please contact the team at grandprix@lepetitjournal.com.

Hurry up to get your tickets for this unique festival with all these artists linking different cultures such as the Cities of Light concert and these tributes paid such as the one made for Serge Gainsbourg.

Note that the rooms are currently only at 50% of the workforce.


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“Art Unboxed”: Xavier Mahé presents the 2022 edition of French May in Hong Kong