T wenty four years after the Hong Kong government first announced the creation of an ambitious US $3 billion cultural district for the city, key attraction M+ – the museum of 20th and 21st century visual culture – opened its Herzog & de Meuron-designed doors to the public on 12 November.
“The future history of the art museum will be written to a significant degree in Asia, and few institutions will be more pivotal to that story than M+, a world-class landmark for a great international city,” said Suhanya Raffel, the museum’s director, prior to the opening.
Built on reclaimed waterfront land in the West Kowloon area, the museum comprises 17,000 sq m of exhibition space, in a 65,000 sq m purpose-built complex, which also includes transportation, retail, dining, entertainment and office facilities. The district is located next to a new railway station that connects Hong Kong with China by high-speed train.
M+ has been active for a number of years using a temporary pavilion and commissioning the presentations at the Venice Biennale’s Hong Kong pavilion, but the fully opened museum aims to set the agenda for what a cultural institution can be in this century. One of the first exhibitions, for example, is about “a narrative of post-war international visual art told from the perspective of Asia.”
For the inauguration period, 33 M+ galleries showcase more than 1,000 works from its permanent collections. Visitors are treated to a range of works: from a full sushi bar by the late Japanese industrial designer Shiro Kuramata, through performance art, Antony Gormley’s Asian Field installation of clay figures, and fresh approaches to appreciating modern ink painting, to the legendary Sigg Collection of Chinese contemporary art.
Internationals may have to wait a few more months before experiencing M+ in person. Hong Kong is expected to keep in place pandemic restrictions for non-residents and hotel quarantines of up to three weeks for visitors.
However this is just the beginning of the excitement around the West Kowloon Cultural District. In July 2022, the Hong Kong Palace Museum is due to open, dedicated to special exhibitions of unparalleled antiquities from China’s former imperial collections.
Cover image: M+. Photo: Virgile Simon Bertrand, © Virgile Simon Bertrand. Courtesy: Herzog & de Meuron