Opening of the M + Museum of Hong Kong

The collective memories of Hong Kong cinema and pop culture have a major role to play in the new M + Museum of Contemporary Visual Culture, which receives tens of thousands of visitors during its opening weekend despite the scenery changing city politics.

While the focus and media spotlight was on the exhibition of the famous Chinese contemporary art collection offered by Swiss mega art collector Uli Sigg, which most attracted local audiences over the weekend opening (November 12-14) was the Hong Kong Nostalgia in the spotlight.

Canto-pop album covers and concert ticket designs from the 1980s and 1990s – the golden age of Hong Kong showbiz – were among the exhibits featured in the “Hong Kong: Here and Beyond” section. “, which saw a longer queue than at the other five opening thematic exhibitions.

Divided into four chapters – Here, Identities, Places and Beyond, the Hong Kong exhibition covered a range of visual culture objects ranging from contemporary art to artefacts and designs that chronicled the development and transformation of the city from the 1960s to the present day.

An album cover and concert ticket linked to the late Canto-pop queen Anita Mui – whose highly anticipated biopic “Anita” produced by Edko Films has also just been released in theaters – brought back memories, according to visitors to the ‘exposure.

Also on display were album covers by electro duo Tat Ming Pair, seven-piece Tai Chi, three-piece pop group Grasshopper, and award-winning singer and actress Deanie Ip. Rarely seen tickets to concerts by Sam Hui, Hong Kong pop icon Leslie Cheung and George Lam of the 1980s were also among the popular exhibits.

A two-channel video installation titled “Where are we looking now?” Featuring clips from Hong Kong films from the 1970s to the present day was featured in the show. The shots were selected from films produced at different times, including “2046” by Wong Kar-wai (2004), “Aberdeen” by Pang Ho-cheung (2014), “Rouge” by Stanley Kwan (1988), ” Made in Hong Kong ”(1997) by Fruit Chan. Excerpts from the 2015 dystopian anthology “Ten Years,” which is now so toxic to Hong Kong authorities that two of its five co-directors are now in self-imposed exile.

The M + Museum, which is a flagship project in the West Kowloon Cultural District, took almost 14 years to build, following repeated delays, management shifts and an inflated budget of as much as $ 760 million. dollars. Earlier this year, the museum came under attack from pro-Beijing politicians, who accused the museum’s Uli Sigg collection of containing works of art that “would spread hatred against China” and could violate the law. on national security, which prohibits activities related to subversion, terrorism, secession and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.

Sigg provided much of the art on display, including works by politically controversial artist-activist Ai Weiwei, who was born in mainland China and also lives in exile in Europe. (Of the 1,510 works in the collection, 47 were acquired by M + for $ 22.7 million in 2012.)

One of the targeted works was “Study of Perspective: Tian’anmen” by Ai, which is one of a series of photographic works donated by Sigg. The image of the work was censored on the museum’s collection website and the work was not included in the opening exhibits.

But there were other traces of Ai in the opening exhibits. Two of his works, a large-scale installation of old pots (some coated with white paint) titled “Whitewash” (1995-2000), and a 10-hour video work “Chang’an Boulevard” (2004), have been posted.

Henry Tang, chairman of the board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, which manages the arts hub where M + is located, has denied any allegations of political censorship. However, complying with the law, including the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Mini-Constitution and the National Security Law, was the museum’s job as a public institution, he said. Respect for the cultural norm of a society was also necessary in deciding which works to exhibit.

The museum, housed in a 700,000 square foot concrete building designed by world-renowned Swiss company Herzog & de Meuron, is open to the local public free of charge for the coming year. It is also equipped with a cinema and a media library to showcase works of moving images from among the 8,000 people in the collection, but details of the film programs have not yet been announced.

James C. Tibbs