31 Jul 2014 - 12:23 pm

French fine dining is brought to street level in Hong Kong at Bibo. Serving up a modern take on classic French cuisine, wines of merit and back-to-the-roots cocktails, Bibo is a passion project that gives a nod to bohemian lifestyle. It is a concept that redefines understated luxury. The ongoing and ever changing project is an international first that sees a collaboration of the world’s most renowned contemporary and street artists together in one space.


From installations by Vhils, Invader, JonOne, Stohead, Kaws, JR, Mr Brainwash, Ella & Pitr, Mist, MadC to hangings and works by Banksy, Jean- Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Daniel Arsham, Jeff Koons, King of Kowloon, Shepard Fairey, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama to name a few, this pioneering project is set to open minds to a new way of eating and of seeing art.

Creative design agency Substance uses imaginative storytelling to unite two very different disciplines at street art restaurant Bibo.

An elegant heritage building stands on Hollywood Road amongst antique shops and art galleries. Discreetly opulent touches suggest this may be a smart regional office for a prosperous business. Yet inside the building, people gather to enjoy fine French cuisine in a setting filled with important and exciting works of modern and street art.
The challenge of this project was to create a restaurant where street art could exist alongside classic French cuisine. The client is both a connoisseur and extensive collector of contemporary art, who wanted to display collections in the space, says Maxime Dautresme, Creative Director of Substance design agency. We needed to see how modern street art, classic French gastronomy and the space could work together. I felt 1930s design – which is modern enough to serve as a backdrop to constantly changing and extremely eclectic artistic expression – would create an elegant and comfortable environment in which to serve French gastronomy.

The space embodies a 1930s Parisian balance between form and function. The entrance is striking and luxurious with marble floors and elegant light fittings. Everything has a curved functionality, invoking mechanical engineering and transportation design. Dautresme explains, I needed to connect the decade, street art and gastronomy. Street artists often begin their careers spray-painting trains and trams. They also like to occupy disused heritage buildings and construction sites. They express themselves by layering their art on surfaces with a history. This building has age and is in a part of town with history and character. What if it had once been the office of a prosperous French transportation company?

Dautresme invented a new history for the building: as the former regional headquarters for the fictional Compagnie Generale Francaise de Tramways (CGFT), abandoned when the company?s plans to manage the Hong Kong tram systems never came to fruition. A few remnants of that enterprise linger; some furniture, financial ledgers, train timetables and unused ticket rolls. The new inhabitants are squatters: street artists, who gather in the vacated building to share food, drinks and ideas. This is the space now known as “Bibo”.

The story of the imagined tram company is told physically through the form and fixtures of the building. The complex system of lighting and brass pipes is reminiscent of subway ventilation systems and networks. Thin lines from brass lamps which connect to the pipes in the ceiling act as points of extension, flirting with forms found in rail lines. The light fixtures themselves look like train signal lights. Brass is used widely. As Dautresme explains: “Brass has a modernity which is also opulent. It is one of the most interesting metals: it has this sense of nobility.”

Layers of unevenly stacked marble create the bar, referencing abandoned construction sites. Dining tables are created from gently misaligned stone slabs. “We wanted things to look slightly unfinished, but in an organic way,” says Dautresme; “It makes the street artists feel more at home.”

In addition to displaying pieces from street art collectors, the space has become a studio for new work: street artists from around the world are invited to create installations at Bibo. “The artists can paint wherever they want and do whatever they want,” says Dautresme. Alcoves, doors, walls, ceilings have been used by the street artists as surfaces to express themselves. One artist has used the spines of volumes in a bookcase as a canvas for a bright triptych of spray-painted faces.

The legend of La Compagnie Generale Francaise de Tramway is perpetuated through the unique branding system. The company logo uses typography that is both functional and mechanical. A distinct brand palette of blue and brass is used throughout, along with a sharp pattern of interlocking lines, further illustrating the visual forms of railways and the general theme of connectivity. The concept of layering and reusing objects of value is continued in the stationery of the restaurant: business cards that used to be tram tickets, and menus printed on train schedules from the past.

These visual cues entice all who enter the space to participate in the story – consumers, workers and artists’ giving Bibo a real sense of community.
The menu and gastronomic experience is created by award-winning chef Mutaro Balde, and features exquisite French haute cuisine. Dishes are beautifully constructed with attention to colour and texture, reflecting the vibrant and varied artworks across the space.

Dautresme summarizes: “Our job was to highlight simple things without cannibalizing the flow of the space. Without scaring the street artists, we had to bring in enough opulence and complexity to be relevant to the gastronomy.”