Lifestyle

Beneath the layers

interiors

To say that the restaurant Bibo caused a bit of a stir when it first opened would be an understatement. From reports of paparazzi camping out the night before its opening to rampant gossip about who the enigmatic, eponymous “Bibo” is—the owner of the restaurant, or a street artist? —the buzz surrounding the French fine-dine’s launch was overwhelming. Four years later, Bibo is still a firm favouriteamong gourmands and art aficionados alike. The restaurant recently underwent a revamp: Nicholas Chew, formerly the chef at the Michelin-starred Serge et le Phoque, came onboard to create a new French-inspired menu; a new wine bar was introduced; and the restaurant’s striking collection of artworks was refreshed. 


interiors

For many, Bibo’s impressive array of art is its claim to fame. And for good reason too. The list of artists on show reads more like the permanent collection at MoMA rather than the decor of a restaurant tucked into a humble side street of Sheung Wan. There is Damien Hirst, Banksy, Daniel Arsham, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, just to name a few. In addition to the framed paintings and sculptures, the walls are emblazoned with splashes of colour and patterns thanks to renowned street artists such as Vhils and Invader. “[The restaurant owner] owns an expansive collection of art,” said Max Dautresme, founding partner of A Work of Substance, the creative agency who was tasked with designing the restaurant’s interiors. He said, “I want to put a lot of art around the food.”


interiors

A Work of Substance’s challenge was to bring the art and the food together. “The brief was very simple, yet at the same time complex because of the dramatic contrast between fine French dining and street art,” continued Dautresme. “Around five years ago, street art wasn’t really as mainstream as it is now.” The firm’s solution was to come up with an involved concept that started with the fictional French tram company, Compagnie Générale Française de Tramways, whose headquarters were situated in the heritage building on Hollywood Road, but were then abandoned after the British won the bid to build Hong Kong’s trams. Then, the story goes, a street artist called Bibo took over the space, inviting his fellow artists to gather there. 


interiors


interiors

This fictional tram company characterises everything about the restaurant’s interiors, from the sign on the entrance to the lights (based on the red, orange and green colours of stoplights) to the custom-made tabletops (created from stacked pieces of travertine styled to look like drywall from a construction site). Mechanical elements and brass accents harking back to the tram theme can be found throughout the restaurant, too. 


interiors


interiors

But interior design was only the firststep. After that came the art. “Street art is all about layering,” said Dautresme. “Layering on top of important things, such as monuments. Spraying [a form of public transport] would get your message across town. All the artists came in and started layering on top of the marble, the floor, the brass elements.” The art collection followed. While the owner selected which pieces were to be put on display, A Work of Substance advised on placement. “We had to create harmony among all these pieces, which all made such big statements,” said Dautresme. “There were so many personalities around the room. At first, no one thought this could work. But now artists want to display their work here because of the space’s appeal.” From the sound of things, the story of Bibo is not over yet.  

 

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