The mind-blowing M+

October 27, 2021 09:10
Photo: Ben Kwok

Spacious. Ambitious. Contentious. Those were my first impression of M+, the contemporary art museum to debut in about two weeks.

The new museum of the West Kowloon Cultural District cannot come at a better time to cheer up the Hong Kong people. After a tough two years, it is refreshing to see the birth of M+, which took almost 10 long years from concept to completion, somewhat slower by the standard of the world’s most efficient city.

But it is worth the wait. When I first entered the premise last weekend on its Appreciation Day, I could not help thinking that it is the Tate Modern of Hong Kong.

In every way, the new addition along the Victoria Harbour is similar to the Queen’s Walk along the River Thames if we substitute the Observation Wheel with London Eye, Xiqu Centre with Southbank Centre and many delicious Borough Market-like restaurants.

One can almost immediately tell M+ is the baby of Herzog & de Meuron, who designed Tate Modern in London and also the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing. The Swiss architects know best how to use space, a luxurious element in a small city, and incorporate perfectly the underground rail constraints in the museum.

As such, I could imagine Lars Nittve, M+ and Tate’s founding director whom I had privilege to work with 10 years ago, would be happy to see the baby too.

With around 1,500 works ready to display in its 33 galleries and other display spaces, M+ has a rich collection of 8,000 pieces of visual art, design and architecture, moving image and Hong Kong visual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries.

There are indeed a lot to see, starting with the calligraphy of Tsang Tsou Choi, or the "King of Kowloon", and several references of the late singer Anita Mui, photographer Michael Wolf all in the session of “Hong Kong: Here and Beyond”.

However it is a bit ambitious to include different aspects of Hong Kong and thus not easy to follow without proper curation.

I am looking forward to see the M+ Sigg Collection from Uli Sigg, a former Swiss diplomat who has the world’s most comprehensive collection of the contemporary Chinese art, including the controversial Ai Weiwei and Yue Minjun.

At the time of visit, the Sigg Galleries are closed. Based on previous media reports, it is doubtful if some of the controversial art piece will be displayed for public viewing – at least not at this national security law-sensitive era.

Art is a matter of taste and we can enjoy it in different ways. In this light, we are excited to welcome M+ to Hong Kong and to the world.

M+ will open to the public on November 12.

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EJ Insight writer