Hong Kong museums exhibit ambition ahead of M+ opening

Museum of Art and other public spaces pledge to innovate and showcase city's heritage, defining their role before M+ visual cultural centre opens

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 5:44am

Government museums will emphasise Hong Kong arts and culture by showing off their vast collections, revamping exhibition spaces and introducing new programmes.

This positioning will help clarify the roles of different public museums managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and M+, the contemporary visual culture museum opening in West Kowloon Cultural District in 2017/18.

The department said questions concerning the role of public museums amid the M+ development were raised by the three Museum Advisory Panels set up in 2010.

Louis Ng Chi-wa, the department's assistant director for heritage and museums, said Hong Kong would be the focus for public museums here. Funding for museums has risen by about 27 per cent from HK$519.2 million in 2008/09 to HK$657.1 million in the current financial year. The department published its first annual report last year.

"With more exhibition spaces available, we hope to showcase more Hong Kong art," said Ng.

With more exhibition spaces available, we hope to showcase more Hong Kong art

Research will play an even more vital role, he said, adding that the Museum of Art will develop a long-term Hong Kong art research programme in collaboration with different institutions.

The department manages 14 public museums and four cultural venues. Among them are key institutions such as the Museum of Art, Heritage Museum, Museum of History and the Hong Kong Film Archive. These are the most likely to overlap with M+.

M+'s collection will focus on 20th and 21st century culture covering visual art, design, architecture and the moving image. While the West Kowloon museum has been criticised for its lack of Hong Kong focus, it has promised a collection that will "reflect the historical implications of local, regional and global networks on visual cultural production". M+, which is still in its early stage of development, has the Sigg collection, which features 1,510 works of Chinese contemporary art (1,463 pieces donated and 47 acquired at HK$177 million, including works by Hong Kong artists Pak Sheung-chuen and Lee Kit). The museum has also acquired another 364 works, of which 328 are by local artists or directly related to Hong Kong. In contrast, the department has a massive collection. The Museum of Art alone owns 15,900 objects from the early 20th century to the present, of which 4,400 items are Hong Kong art. Key artists include Antonio Mak, Leung Kui-ting and Lu Shoukun.

The Heritage Museum has more than 100,000 items from the latter half of the 19th century, including 14,000 pieces of Hong Kong art and 73,000 items related to Hong Kong heritage.

Among the major art collections in the Heritage Museum are the Lingnan School of Chinese paintings by Chao Shao-an, as well as Hong Kong photography works by the likes of Tchan Fou-li, Kan Hing-fook and Leo Wong Kwai-kuen. It also has works by Huang Xinbo, and pieces by leading designers such as Kan Tai-keung, Freeman Lau Siu-hong and Stanley Wong.

Ng said the department holds a vast collection of Hong Kong art, which "even M+ can't get in the market. Our collection is very comprehensive and it is not something that M+ can obtain in a short time … but we don't have enough space [to show it all]."

Ng said the department could collaborate by lending works to M+ so "they can focus on exploring a new frontier".

Public museums will also be more active in pursuing international exposure, especially from visiting collectors. Ng said May's visual arts exhibition and activity centre, in the club house of the former Royal Yacht Club in Oil Street in North Point, will coincide with the city's art fair.