Hong Kong is an Asian art center. The M+ Museum for Visual Arts and Culture which is located in West Kowloon Cultural District will become one of most important museums in Hone Kong and even in Asia. As a museum which will be brought to operation in 2017, what can it showcase without any shelf, wall or courtyard? How is this museum without walls going to present the fruits of interaction among artists, urban geography and history? We are honored to have Dr. Pi Li here today to present the past of Hong Kong M+ Museum for Visual Arts and Culture. Also, starting from M+, Dr. Pi is going to explore the future development of Asian museums. Dr. Pi Li had been a professor in Art Management Department of China Central Academy of Fine Arts, and now the senior planner of the M+ Museum for Visual Arts and Culture.
What kind of museum does Hong Kong need?
Facing the Victoria Harbor, West Kowloon of Hong Kong is the last ground made by reclamation. After the return of Hong Kong in 1997, Hong Kong SAR Government had decided to build a Hong Kong cultural district here, while the construction of M+ Museum for Visual Arts and Culture was finally confirmed after consideration of Hong Kong Museums Advisory Committee in 2003. From then on, Hong Kong starts to think about what kind of museum Hong Kong needs.
What kind of museum do we need? This is not just a problem for intellectuals, but more for the public. How does a museum set its value for serving the public? Can it become a platform for the public to express their wills about culture? Before 1997, Hong Kong had been a place connecting Chinese and western cultures, but the real Hong Kong people appeared after 1997. As the real Hong Kong citizens and Hong Kong Identity appeared, attentions and worry appeared, too. This was the high time we considered how to handle the relations between M+ and Hong Kong.
We hope that M+ is going to be a project serving the public and a museum really for Hong Kong people. We also hope that this project can also satisfy around 2 million tourists from mainland every year. We aim to upgrade standards of Asian museums through M+, and M+ is planning to establish world-class collections. The celebrated collector of Chinese contemporary arts, Mr. Sigg, donated his 1951 collections to our M+ Museum for Visual arts and Culture in June, 2012. That was a leap for us. Furthermore, we hope that M+ will be able to bring Hong Kong some very important global exhibitions and perform its educational function, being not just a museum for visual arts or find arts.
As a museum for visual art, the first thing M+ needs to identify is the concept of visual arts. The most significant part of visual arts is water ink art, which has influenced Hong Kong a lot. Hong Kong citizens are always proud of their water ink art. They think that since 1949 many traditions of Lingnan School of Painting has been kept in Hong Kong, meanwhile, water ink art reflects the identity concern of Hong Kong people. Movies are also important. Hong Kong established its globally well-known movie industry in 1970s, represented by Bruce Lee. That is what should be proud of in Hong Kong’s innovative industry. Moreover，visual arts also includes design, architecture and pop culture.
We want to collect all kinds of art works from 20 century to 21 century in M+. What makes M+ differ from other museums? I think it virtually lies in the fact that there’s no wall among different categories of arts in M+. This is the concept of a comprehensive museum we want to achieve, which is brand new globally.
Exploring a new model for museum exhibition
We hope that M+ serves Hong Kong citizens and has global vision at the same time. We are going to look at the world from Hong Kong locals’ view point, therefore, There should be Hong Kong contemporary arts among M+’s collections in the first place, then extent to pearl river delta, the whole China, and then Asia, while eastern Asia and southern east Asia would be mainly preferred, and finally out of Asia. We want to collect global contemporary art works, but we hope that they would be the ones related with China, such as the works created by foreign artists in China, the works have influenced Chinese artists or the works about China.
M+ also gives attention to international artists who stays in Hong Kong. As an international art transfer station, Hong Kong exactly has this feature. M+ also aims to become a home of overseas Chinese artists. The key concepts of M+ are excellence and enlightened. We hope that M+ would become a place where visual culture is accessible and different kinds of culture respect each other.
museum is something more than just a building, but the building itself is also very important. The second phase of M+ is going to occupy 6,200 square meters, while above 1,700 square meters is for exhibitions and 1,500 square meters is for restoration and storage of art works. Placing the storage in a museum is the feature where M+ differs from the general setup of museums in the world. Besides, there are also miniature and outdoor display areas.
Besides buildings, in the core of M+, we also need to reconsider about its exhibition model. We have invited international art planners to work it out together and explore whether there is any potential Asian exhibition model. A water ink symposium has just been held. We had discussed about the way the public can enjoy water ink paintings in our museum. Traditionally, people unfold hand scrolls carefully to have a look at paintings inside rather than just hanging them on the wall. It was caused by changes of private space, which made the meaning of water ink paintings and the way to appreciate them different. So, shall we make such a special part in contemporary museums where people can appreciate water ink paintings in traditional way? Is there any other media can help present images?
Restoration and preservation of works of art are very interesting for many people, so M+ is planning to display the process of restoration to audiences in the first and second space. Besides, M+ also wants an equally important digital space, so a digital museum is also a huge project for us to finish in the future. It’s true that since January 2012 we have started a series of events, including public art activities held in Yau Ma Tei. Meanwhile, M+ has also held a series of design forums and invited experts from all over the world to explore the way to integrate design, water ink and images.