Jonathan Jay Lee, Kiyoshi Hoshimi-Caines Launch "Neon"
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Jonathan Jay Lee, Kiyoshi Hoshimi-Caines Team Up to Launch "Neon" Speakeasy

Affordable Art Fair 2024 2

In a first-ever speakeasy concept, artist Jonathan Jay Lee and Kiyoshi Hoshimi-Caines, former Head Sommelier and Beverage Director of Yardbird and RONIN, teamed up at the Affordable Art Fair (AAF)’s 2024 edition to bring Sham Shui Po to the HKCEC. We caught up with the pair on the “Neon” project, which was also co-presented by The Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Affordable Art Fair 2024

Completely transforming the well-lit artworks right outside of its hidden entrance, the “Neon” speakeasy’s cool ambiance and nostalgic interior are reminiscent of old Hong Kong. With its walls decorated with antique accents and original artworks by Jonathan, an AAF veteran, “Neon” is an essential add-on for visitors to be immersed in a uniquely Hong Kong experience. Sip on Kiyoshi’s curated cocktail menu, each drink inspired by quintessential childhood classics, while enjoying a cool respite from the busy fair.

Too Far East Barber & Co_Affordable Art Fair 2024

Fronted by a Too Far East Barber & Co. pop-up led by Co-founder Kelvin Yu ornamented with traditional signage and a classic green mailbox, the entire concept exudes the passion each of the “Neon” speakeasy’s creators have for not only their craft, but for the city they call home.

Childhood Friends to Art Fair Headliners

Jonathan Jay Lee, Kioyshi Hoshimi-Caines Team Up to Launch "Neon" Speakeasy

Incidentally, the trio are childhood friends, Jonathan recalls while displaying a photo from 1997.

“We were day one friends since we were 12 years old, and we grew up together. I've been in the industry for 20 years, and the project felt like it was kind of made for us,” Kiyoshi shared, “[Jonathan] is not only the most amazing artist that I know but also my dearest friend and we've always wanted a reason to work together.”

Jonathan added: “When this whole thing came about, it doesn't make any sense, if you think about it. But those are the best kinds of projects. The ones that excite me the most are the ones that you have no certainty of what it's going to be.”

A Taste of Hong Kong

Kiyoshi Hoshimi-Caines Affordable Art Fair 2024

The speakeasy was a resounding success, piquing interest as soon as the Fair opened its doors. Unfortunately, the concept bar will remain open for four nights only as the fair ends on the 19th.

Visitors are drawn immediately to Too Far East’s barber shop, with a “back door” mimicking Hong Kong’s classic metal gates illustrated with Jonathan’s unique style. As soon as you enter, the dim atmosphere plus a collage of illustrations aged like a Sham Shui Po spot wallpaper draw you into the hidden bar.

Kiyoshi’s cocktail menu, created for “Neon,” is inspired by classic Hong Kong flavors – Chrysanthemum Tea, Milk Tea, and Egg Tarts.

Neon speakeasy Affordable Art Fair 2024

“John's art has been synonymous with Hong Kong, and that's been his inspiration. And growing up together in Hong Kong, [we've been] taking [inspiration] from everything that we've always seen. For example, the barber out front [then] Kelvin always used to drink 菊花茶 [chrysanthemum tea] so he’s mainly the inspiration for the Gok Fa Spritz,” Kiyoshi explained.

“Milk tea at one point, I really loved, so it was also an easy one to bring about. And then 蛋撻 [egg tart], I thought was going to be really fun to incorporate a dessert and a cocktail but to do so in a fresh way, and do such a Hong Kong staple and classic.”

Capturing a Moment in Time

Jonathan Jay Lee Affordable Art Fair 2024

Jonathan’s art transports you to vivid scenes of everyday life in the city, naturally drawing from his own experiences.

He elaborated: “A lot of embracing imperfection in yourself, I realized it with Hong Kong. There's a truth in that, you love someone for their imperfections. By realizing and seeing [the city] from that perspective, I started appreciating everything about it.”

“It was such a strange thing because it wasn't an intention like I'm trying to do this, it really was just I want to portray it the way I see it. I think in the act of drawing, there's something in that brush stroke or that arm movement, that you feel love. Hopefully, maybe the audience will see it.”

Neon Speakeasy Affordable Art Fair 2024

“All I'm doing is representing a [moment in time], and Hong Kong [moves] at a pace that is so fast, so I hope that my work is remembered that way, that it preserves something about it,” Jonathan shared.

You sense the love the artist feels for the city in the works displayed at “Neon,” vividly painting an emotion that draws you into the scene. For those familiar with Hong Kong, you can almost hear the sounds of the streets, smell the picture, feel the heat — suddenly, you're in Sham Shui Po.

Everyone is An Art Collector

Affordable Art Fair 2024

Bringing accessible art from local and international galleries to the city for eleven years, AAF’s theme for the year “I Am an Art Collector” rings true to its mission. Travelling the Fair, and even experiencing Jonathan’s works through a unique speakeasy experience, the often untouchable - and expensive - world of art has never been so tangible.

Kiyoshi echoed: “Sometimes art can be [inaccessible], from the artist’s standpoint, and also from the purchaser or viewer. I think Affordable Art Fair does a really good job of promoting Hong Kong, hence, the amazing investment they've done for John, [and] a lot of others, too. On a grassroots scale, it's extremely important.”

The Hustle Never Stops

Kiyoshi Hoshimi-Caines Affordable Art Fair 2024

When asked about his favorite thing about Hong Kong, Jonathan shared: “It's the working-class hustle, which is a reminder [of] we're all doing in Hong Kong. We're still in the process.”

Up next for Jonathan, he’ll be launching a new project with one of Hong Kong’s largest property developers next month, alongside many other soon-to-be-announced collaborations.

Kiyoshi runs a charity alongside a few of his close friends called More Good which serves nutritious meals to those in need throughout the city. His Hong Kong-born and based hot sauce brand, Flagrant Hot Sauce regularly hosts pop-ups, restaurant collaborations, and other events.

Affordable Art Fair 2024

Affordable Art Fair 2024

Affordable Art Fair will continue to run until Sunday, May 19, 2024. Its public opening hours will run from 12 pm to 9 pm on Friday, May 17, 10 am to 7 pm on Saturday, May 18, and 10 am to 7 pm on Sunday, May 19. Guests are welcome to take part in Family Mornings on Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 12 pm.

While Too Far East’s barber shop sets up shop with the fair, the “Neon” speakeasy will open for guests daily at 6 pm. Representing a collective of artists and galleries from over 18 countries, the event boasts a wide range of art all priced under HK$100,000.

Find out more and purchase your tickets here.

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