Budget injection may lead to clash in museums' local art focus

HK$50 million budget injection to boost Hong Kong collections may result in city's galleries all chasing the same type of works

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 4:30am

An extra HK$50 million assigned to government museums to expand their local art collection could have "consequences" for the West Kowloon museum, its executive director says.

Plans by the museums - in particular the Museum of Art - to strengthen their focus on Hong Kong art and ink art revealed a pressing need to clarify their roles with that of M+, Lars Nittve said.

"This could have consequences for our positioning," Nittve told the South China Morning Post. "We should study that and come up with rebalancing priorities."

This could have consequences for our positioning. We should study that and come up with rebalancing priorities
Lars Nittve

The arts hub museum was recruiting a curator specialising in Hong Kong art, and another in ink art, he said. It has also presented a research strategy on the city's art and has acquired 700 pieces of local artists' works.

"We're moving quite strongly in the Hong Kong field. "External pressure and voices [have been] raised from very different corners in favour of [M+] acquiring more Hong Kong works," he said.

But these plans could clash with those of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs 14 public museums and four cultural centres.

The department also plans to acquire local artists' works to build a comprehensive collection for research, exhibition and educational programmes with the help of HK$50 million announced in the Budget. The money would also fund the commissioning of public art, a spokesman said.

"The collection policy of the Museum of Art and the Heritage Museum focuses on Hong Kong so as to reflect the development and cultural identity of Hong Kong art," he said. "We are conscious of the need to co-ordinate and communicate with M+."

M+, which focuses on 20th and 21st century visual culture, will open in the West Kowloon Cultural District in 2017.

The museum, which has a HK$1.7 billion acquisition budget, now has a collection of more than 2,300 works. Among those by Hong Kong artists, many were donated by local artists as well as collectors, Nittve said. The museum's next nomadic exhibition, Mobile M+: Inflation!, will open to the public on Thursday.

Six giant inflatable sculptures - by China's Cao Fei, the United States' Paul McCarthy, South Korea's Choi Jeong-hwa, Britain's Jeremy Deller, Argentina's Tomas Saraceno and Hong Kong's Tam Wai-ping - will be erected on the site of the arts hub park.

A joint Legislative Council subcommittee will discuss the museum's development today.