The South China Morning Post has a superb story on the challenges facing Hong Kong’s M+ museum. The occasion for the long magazine story is a placeholder show of works from the Uli Sigg donation to M+ which is one the most comprehensive collections and chronicles of Chinese Contemporary art:
Rarely has there been so much riding on an art exhibition. With “Four Decades of Chinese Contemporary Art”, which opens on Tuesday, the custodians of the future M+ will try to convince a sceptical Hong Kong public that the much-delayed opening of the museum, which is now expected in 2019, will be worth the wait.
They will do so by giving locals a first glimpse of some of the most important contemporary art the city has ever owned. But given the nature of the exhibition – selected highlights from the M+ Sigg collection: 80 pieces by 50 artists presented in chronological order – the curators have a significant additional burden. They must prove they can relate the politically charged history of Chinese contemporary art without interference, that the HK$5 billion Herzog and de Meuron-designed waterfront landmark will be home to uncensored exhibitions and research, and that the West Kowloon Cultural District will not turn out to be a white elephant that confirms Hong Kong is losing its freedom of expression. […]
M+ is so-called because it was conceived to change the art-museum concept. The intention is to embrace everything that falls under the banner of “visual culture”: paintings, sculptures, moving images, performance art, architecture and design. To help local audiences grasp the concept, M+ has been producing highly acclaimed public programmes to promote the fact that its collection will be international and cover a variety of genres.
[…] every museum has must-sees, and the highlights of the Sigg collection will be sought out at M+ because of the enormous global interest in Chinese contemporary art and the fact that it includes early works, the likes of which are rarely found in the art market.
Pi appreciates the curatorial freedom in Hong Kong but he hopes M+ will be a platform from which an open-minded discussion of Chinese art can be held, challenging the over-simplified views held in the West: “First of all, if you want to look at 1989, you really need to see the whole period of 1988 to 1993 and the ongoing cold war. China became the last socialist country to survive the cold war and that was the reason why the West has such an interest in the art of China. While it gave Chinese art an opportunity to be shown outside, such interest was only political and exoticised. They only want to project their imagination of Chinese from their perspective.
“A lot of artists were massively producing art to fit the Western imagination.”
All eyes on M+, and Hong Kong, as Chinese Contemporary Art exhibition set to open (South China Morning Post)