M+ 'will keep its focus' on HK artists

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am


With a single HK$1.3 billion donation of Chinese contemporary art mainly by mainland artists set to fill a third of the M+ museum of visual culture, its chief has denied it is switching its focus from Hong Kong art.

Executive director Lars Nittve said he had his eye on the Hong Kong Museum of Art's collection to help fill the rest of the space.

While netting the acclaimed Uli Sigg Collection for the West Kowloon Cultural District museum was a coup, only a few Hong Kong names feature among its 350 artists.

Nittve said: 'M+ is a museum, and at its core is Hong Kong artists and Hong Kong art. And the second core is Chinese contemporary art. The central idea is to have a collection of Hong Kong artists.'

He was speaking during a visit to the Art Basel fair in Switzerland, where the arts hub made an international announcement of Sigg's decision to donate 1,463 art works to the permanent collection of M+.

Nittve said the museum, which aims to have 5,000 works when it opens in 2017, was exploring ways to collaborate with the Hong Kong Museum of Art in building its collection, including signing a long-term loan agreement.

'We are working on that. The Museum of Art has built a collection that would be perfect for us to have. And they don't have the space to show it. We shouldn't go out and buy the same things they have,' he said.

Although Sigg's collection is so far the only donation to M+ that has been announced, Nittve said that the museum team had been soliciting Hong Kong artworks from both local and overseas collectors.

'We have been having long-term discussions with collectors and artists, and they are at different stages. And some we haven't even started talking to.'

He said donating art had not been a tradition in Hong Kong, unlike in the West.

'We have had some really interesting discussions, and we hope we will be able to announce some smaller donations later this year.'

Sigg, a former Swiss ambassador to China, began building his collection of Chinese contemporary art in the early 1990s.

The Sigg collection covers the period from 1979 to 2009, an important one for the development of the genre under the open- door policy of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

The donation includes works by leading artists such as Zeng Fanzhi, Xu Bing, Wang Guangyi, Zhang Xiaogang and Ai Weiwei. It also includes works by Hong Kong artists Lee Kit and Pak Sheung-chuen.

Under the deal, the museum will acquire a further 47 works for HK$177 million, and will collaborate on the Chinese Contemporary Art Award and the CCAA Art Critic Award, both founded by Sigg.

The museum will also dedicate 5,000 square metres in its first three years to exhibiting the collection, to be known as the M+ Sigg Collection.

Nittve, who has embarked on a series of pop-up M+ exhibitions, was adamant about the museum's focus. 'In the last two exhibitions we did Bamboo Theatre during Chinese New Year and Mobile M+ in May - those were only Hong Kong artists. There's no need to worry,' he said.


The value, in Hong Kong dollars, of the Uli Sigg Collection of contemporary Chinese art the museum recently secured