M+, described as Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture, has opened in Hong Kong. Located in the city state’s West Kowloon Cultural District, the museum features six thematic exhibitions housing more than 1,000 works. Designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, M+ acts as a cultural centre for 20th and 21st-century art, design, architecture, and the moving image. As well as the 33 exhibition galleries, the complex houses retail areas, restaurants, cafés, a research centre and multi-purpose halls. M+ is set to become a centrepiece of The West Kowloon Cultural District. Director Suhanya Raffel spoke to Attractions Management about M+’s aims.
How would you sum up M+ offers?
M+ is special because it is Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture and it is located here, in the global city of Hong Kong.
Over the past few years, the art market has exponentially grown in Hong Kong, however to transform the city into an international cultural hub, it required a leading institution for visual culture.
M+ offers a brand-new centre for visual culture and a world-class landmark for a great international city. Dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries, the collections span visual art, design and architecture, and moving image. I want M+ to be a major platform for fostering cultural exchange between Hong Kong and the rest of the world.
M+ aims to offer an Asian perspective on contemporary visual culture. Why is this important?
Great museums change global perceptions of cities and nations. A museum such as M+ can have a transformative effect by expressing the identity, creativity, and energy of the city.
At M+, we represent the histories that emanate from this part of the world, so we can take purchase of these important discussions. We want to tell our stories through multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and interregional narratives. When we look at Hong Kong – the skyline, the art and design, the architectural histories of this city, its regional authenticity and international influences reflect a rich and entirely unique history.
How is the museum and its content rooted in its place?
For us, Hong Kong, its history, position and place in the world, is an integral part of many stories that are configured across various disciplines within the exhibitions in M+. One of the opening exhibitions is dedicated to Hong Kong and Beyond, which considers the transformation and unique visual culture of Hong Kong from the 1960s to the present.
Through our programming, we want to ensure that Hong Kong artists and designers are shown as equal to their international colleagues. We also take Hong Kong to the world, for example, we’ve worked with the Hong Kong Arts Development Council to present local artists in the Venice Biennale, while simultaneously bringing the international to Hong Kong. This two-way street lies at the very heart of M+.
How would you sum up the architecture? How does it support the content of the museum?
Herzog & de Meuron have created a superb and extraordinary museum building that extends that public space into and on top of the museum through a design that’s porous and inviting.
It is truly a gift to Hong Kong that will become one of its most recognised architectural icons. Indeed, we regard the building itself as part of the M+ Collections.
Can you tell us about the opening exhibitions and what you have planned for the longer term?
Our six inaugural exhibitions will provide different avenues through which its possible to enter our collections. By offering various approaches, we want to educate our visitors on the many paths that they can take to perceive the variety of histories on display. Some visitors will prefer observing clear chronologies, such as the M+ Sigg Collection: From Revolution to Globalisation, which explores the development of contemporary Chinese art from the 1970s through the 2000s. Others may find a much richer experience when looking from a thematic approach, as seen in Individuals, Networks, Expressions – a narrative of post-war international visual art told from the perspective of Asia.
Moving forwards, our plans for collaborations are well underway. We’ve already loaned our collections to institutions, such as MOMA, Tate and the Mori Art Museum; sharing our artwork is a way of sharing our stories. And, exhibitions are always being discussed with many institutions internationally. So watch this space!