A 51-foot high replica of dog excrement and a gigantic blow-up cockroach may not have seemed the most auspicious figures with which to launch Hong Kong's ambitious West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) project.
But based on the 150,000 visitors that flocked to the waterfront spit of reclaimed land to view the provocative sculptures at a 2013 teaser exhibition, the signs were good for WKCD, the huge infrastructure and architectural project Hong Kong is building to promote the arts.
The friendly public reception would likely have come as a welcome relief to the WKCD Authority, the body that oversees the project, because it had endured some trying years since the WKCD vision was announced in 1998 as a way to help Hong Kong shake off its image as a shipping port where generating cash was the only attraction.
A taste of just how tough it had been to bring the project to that point in 2013: The initial plan unveiled by Foster & Partners, the celebrated London-based architecture firm that won the tender in 2001 to design the WKCD, was dumped in 2005 amid public criticism of its extended canopy.
The WKCD has also battled construction delays. The first substantial building works began only in 2014, on the Xiqu Centre for Chinese opera, the M+ modern-art museum, a park and an Arts Pavilion. A year later, they remain largely construction sites. A second round of construction is now on hold while a high-speed-rail terminus at the WKCD is built.
And facilities envisaged for a third stage of construction, including a concert hall and musical theatres, have no definite timetable for completion. A 15,000-seat arena has been shelved due to the lack of money, according to reports.
Leadership has been another trouble spot. The project's first executive director, Angus Cheng Siu-chuen, appointed in 2009, resigned less than two weeks after taking up the role. His replacement Graham Sheffield, former artistic director of London's Barbican Centre, was appointed chief executive in 2010 but quit just five months after starting the job in 2011.
Michael Lynch, the former Sydney Opera House boss, succeeded Sheffield as CEO but resigned earlier this year, citing personal reasons. The task to run the construction show and appease critics and artists now falls on Duncan Pescod, who replaced Lynch to become the WKCD's third CEO in six years.
Pescod, formerly the WKCD Authority' chief operating officer, is an experienced Hong Kong civil servant, familiar with the territory's political arm-wrestling and administration. And unlike his two predecessors, he does not have an arts background.