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Main Hall Galleries 

Henry Steiner The I Club

An open booklet. The left page has a collage that incorporates a sponge, tap knob, hairbrush, perfume bottle, hairdryer, crumpled-up tissue with lipstick marks, three bars of soap, and pictures of lounge chairs and dining chairs. The right page has a collage that incorporates two fabric samples, a perfume bottle, tap knob, piece of mesh, and pictures of a sink with two toilet bowls, a lounge, and a stool.

M+, Hong Kong, © The I Club. Photo: Dan Leung. M+, Hong Kong


We brought in a lot of entertainment. Artists like Kool and the Gang, Tom Jones, we brought in some ‘Playboy’ playmates and Marcel Marceau. And we just keep rotating, different artists to come in and perform. So, while it lasted, it was a lot of fun.  


That’s Alfred Siu, the developer and art collector who founded the ‘I club’, a short-lived private members club that pioneered a cosmopolitan lifestyle in the early 1980s. He worked closely with New York designer Joe D’Urso on designing its interiors, art consultant Jeffrey Deitch to build an art collection for the club, and Hong Kong-based graphic designer Henry Steiner to create the club’s distinctive visual identity.  


Yeah, it was a wonderful experience working with them. We collaborated, we shared, I needed to respect their input because they’re famous for having created beautiful things. And Jeffrey is famous for picking art, so I don't want to argue with these experts! I'm not like modern owners or developers that are really over-controlling the designers and it was… I think they enjoyed working with me! So, it was a good collaboration.  


Alfred also told us how the name ‘I club’ evolved. Working with Henry, the letter ‘I’ became synonymous with the different sides of the club: its simplicity reflected the minimalist interiors; it stood for the international lifestyle the club promoted; and the varied manifestation of the ‘I’ represented the club members’ sense of individuality. This bold, ambiguous branding also offered a unique way to market the club ahead of its opening. 


And of course, we got really good, teasing advertisements. We worked out a series of different designs for the letter ‘I’, which was not much other than this beautiful figure ‘I’, in this full-page ad in South China Morning Post, and it simply says, ‘“a lifestyle, coming summer… an international lifestyle coming summer’”. So, every week there’s a different ‘I’ coming out. And, this, people are so curious, what is this? A very smart way to get a lot of people’s attention. 


Ultimately, the club fell victim to Hong Kong’s economic crash. But Alfred still thinks fondly of his bold vision in employing ground-breaking art and design –— as reflected in the materials on display here.  


I hope the people who see the material will say, wow, you know, some people in Hong Kong were pretty crazy to do some exciting things… and it's nice! So, there should be more people who are into creative stuff and I hope there will be more people inspired to take such ventures. Maybe not only the financial, economic success is important. Having dreams, that you think would be a great idea materialised, it’s all worth it. 


A series of printed matters of the I Club, a private club in Central in the 1980s. They are designed by Henry Steiner, Hong Kong–based graphic designer of Austrian–Jewish descent. He took the Latin alphabet letter ‘i’ as the club’s visual identity, and with varying forms and shapes of the letter, he created different kinds of printed matter for the club, including a brochure, membership card, invitation card, matchbox, and lounge menu.

The brochure is about A3 size when opened. On one of the pairs of facing pages, there are two full-page images that are staged photographs of objects and printed photos. The background is covered with square mosaic tiles, with pink tiles in the left image and brownish yellow tiles in the right one. The objects and printed photos in the images are things of daily use. Some of them have a shape that resembles the lower-case letter ‘i’, which has a round or rectangular tittle at the top and a vertical stem below. Other objects are placed in a specific way to look like a lower-case ‘i’. For example, a white hair dryer is set to point upwards, where the round air outlet appears to be the tittle of the ‘I’ and the handle appears to be the vertical stem.

The membership card is rectangular and landscape-format with rounded corners. It is approximately the same size as a regular credit card. The theme colours are black, white, and gold. On the front of the card are alternating black-and-white diagonal stripes that take up the upper eighty percent of the image. Below the stripes is a golden silhouette that looks like a mountain. Among the black-and-white stripes on the left, a capital letter ‘I’ is inconspicuously constructed by stripes that slope in the opposite direction, with thicker horizontal strokes at the top and bottom. Two lines of text are embossed at the centre of the mountain silhouette, which are ‘1-2-3-4-5’ and ‘GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION’, respectively.

The invitation card is a landscape-format folded card about the size of an adult’s hand. When opened, the upper half of the card is silvery and reflective. Along the bottom edge there is printed white texts that spells out ‘N-V-I-T-A-T-I-O-N’, the word ‘invitation’ without the first letter ‘i’. The lower half of the card is black. On the left touching the upper edge is the lower half of the capital letter ‘I’, which is red in colour with a white outline. When the card is opened at an angle of about 90 degrees, this lower half of the letter ‘I’ is reflected on the silvery upper half of the card. The print and the reflection together form a complete letter ‘I’. When read alongside the white texts, the word ‘INVITATION’ can be seen.

The matchbox is a small rectangular paper box which has a black-and-white pattern. The top of the box is covered with alternating black-and-white diagonal stripes of uniform width. At the centre is an inconspicuous capital letter ‘I’. It is shaped by the same kind of black-and-white diagonal stripes and almost blends into the background. The letter ‘I’ appears to be 3D, which may be seen as protruding from or sinking into the background.