M+ museum's budget too low for world-class centre, experts claim

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 May, 2008, 12:00am

The M+ museum to be built in the West Kowloon Cultural District will cost an estimated HK$4.7 billion, but arts and culture experts said the budget was too small to create a world-class centre.

The government said yesterday the centre would suffer annual deficits of HK$300 million during the first few years of operation and would need another HK$1.2 billion for acquiring collections. It estimated admission would be kept to HK$27.50 during the first phase of M+, compared with the more than HK$100 charged by world-class museums such as the Pompidou Centre in Paris and New York's Guggenheim.

According to the Home Affairs Bureau, M+, which will focus on 20th and 21st century visual culture, covering moving images, popular culture, design and visual art, will cost HK$4.7 billion, around 20 per cent of the cultural district's total estimated budget of HK$21.6 billion. The first phase was expected to receive 1.2 million visitors and stage four 'blockbuster' exhibitions a year.

With existing museums such as the Museum of Art and the Heritage Museum charging only HK$10 (with an additional HK$10 to HK$30 for 'blockbuster' shows) Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Esther Leung Yuet-yin said the government did not want to create a huge gap between M+ and other museums.

She said that although the interim M+ could only begin after the establishment of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, the museum would not start with nothing because the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's museums already had a collection of more than 900,000 items. 'A lot of private collectors have also expressed interests in collaboration,' she said.

M+ was expected to need 320 full-time staff during its first phase, and Ms Leung said around 10 per cent of them would take senior management roles.

She said there was enough marketing, management and public relations talent in Hong Kong, but did not rule out recruiting experienced managers and curators from overseas.

Freeman Lau Siu-hong, a member of the Museums Advisory Group, said that the government's cost estimate was very conservative and was around 30 per cent less than the group had proposed.

Another advisory group member, Sabrina Fung, said that no museum in the world could have a balanced budget and the conservative estimation should not affect the operation of M+, but it might affect collection acquisition.

'But there will be patronage and sponsorships that cannot be budgeted just yet,' she said. 'The low admission fees can attract more local people to visit the museum.'

A Legislative Council subcommittee meeting on the West Kowloon Cultural District development will be held tomorrow.