The new M+ Museum in the emerging West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong is poised to be a major contemporary art institution of world standing. Set to open at the end of 2021, it will be the first global museum of contemporary visual culture in Asia.
A new architectural icon in Hong Kong city’s landscape, the M+ Museum will certainly make headlines when it opens to the public. Designed by the world-renowned Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron in partnership with TFP Farrells and Arup, the M+ building is set to become a new addition to the global arts and cultural landscape. Hong Kong authorities hope that the convenient location of the museum, with its proximity to Victoria Harbour, will attract visitors and boost interest in the arts and culture.
The structure is located in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District on the Victoria Harbour waterfront. Less than 20 years ago, the land occupied by the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) was a large part of the seaport. Section by section, the land has been reclaimed from the sea and the natural harbour filled with earth.
The 40-hectares of reclaimed land became the home for all the new structures shaping the WKCD. It provides a permanent space for M+, the first global museum of contemporary visual culture in Asia dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong’s visual culture of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. It is said that the museum’s concept was inspired by the Centre Pompidou in Beaubourg, France’s national museum of modern art.
Hong Kong’s answer to New York Guggenheim and Paris Centre Pompidou
The 65,000 sq m M+ building houses 17,000 square metres of exhibition space across 33 galleries. It also includes three cinemas, a mediatheque, a learning hub, a research centre, museum shops, restaurants, a tea and coffee bar, a members lounge, and office spaces, with a roof garden that commands spectacular views over Victoria Harbour.
Raising over the podium with its exhibition galleries, a tower will make the link with Hong Kong’s urban landscape. The podium and tower are united as concrete structures clad in ceramic tiles that reflect the changing conditions of light. The tower facade also features an LED system for the display of content related to the museum, making a distinctive contribution to the city’s vibrant night-time environment.
Originally, the museum was due to be an affiliate of an existing world renowned museum such as Centre Pompidou or the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In the meantime, the museum will host one of the most extensive contemporary Chinese collection, with more than 1,500 works produced by more than 300 contemporary artists. They are part of an extensive private collection amassed by Swiss art collector Uli Sigg. The collection’s presence will be the highlight of the M+ Museum.
While the opening approaches, the museum has also been under media spotlight following the sweeping political changes observed in the former British territory last year. Observers believe that Mainland China’s new national security law in Hong Kong could now translate into a potential reevaluation of the collections by the authorities.
In early 2021, some influential critics pressured the Hong Kong government to remove artworks considered critical of China. So far, the museum’s status guarantees the curators’ independence, a determining element to the success of the institution. The museum is then likely to remain a great space for visitors to learn about the diversity of a thriving Chinese contemporary art community.