By Mar Sanchez-Cascado
Hong Kong, Nov 12 (EFE).- Friday’s public opening of the M+ museum in Hong Kong promises to fill the Asian void in the field of the great meccas of contemporary art in midst of the former colony’s fierce struggle to preserve its culture in the face of increasing censorship from mainland China.
With freedom of creation and expression weakening after the entry into force of a new National Security Law, Hong Kong dressed up to receive this enormous cultural gift almost in time for Christmas: the first institution in Asia dedicated to the visual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The museum has started with six thematic exhibitions that will show a total of 1,500 works from the M+’s own funds.
Housed in a concrete structure of 700,000 square meters – 17,000 dedicated to the exhibition space – the center has been designed by Swiss architecture studio Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with TFP Farrells and Arup.
For its minimalist sketch, the vertical “T” – shaped extension is reminiscent of “an Asian version of Tate Modern” but “more radical,” according to Jaques Herzog.
With a large LED screen on the facade clad in 140,000 pieces of ceramic tile, the museum looks out from Victoria Harbor like a flat screen TV sitting on a lounge entertainment cabinet.
Behind what is already considered the jewel in the crown of the West Kowloon Cultural District, stands a team of professionals from more than 20 nationalities
Against the backdrop of a turbulent political and economic landscape, preparations for the opening of the M+ have been clouded by controversy and, behind the scenes, the institution’s leadership has rotated amid a long series of construction delays.
Debates and criticism around the museum’s spending and acquisitions have subsided and the new objective is to protect the institution so that it does not become a victim of political turmoil and cuts in freedoms.
The museum is under scrutiny over its promise to avoid censorship, a challenge its international counterparts have not had.
While exhibitions in China face difficulties in showing certain works of contemporary art authorities consider too critical of the government, Hong Kong institutions and galleries could until now, in theory, present more explicitly political art.
The main exponent of the new setting for Hong Kong has been criticism of Ai Weiwei’s photography “Perspective Study: Tiananmen” (1997), which is part of the museum’s collection.
The image belongs to the series “Study of Perspective” (1995-2017) and shows the artist raising his middle finger in Tiananmen Square, the scene in 1989 of the violent government repression of a student revolt protesting political corruption.
Controversy aside, for the moment it is expected that the M+ will not see massive influx of international public due to the strict quarantine rules that Hong Kong maintains to prevent covid-19. EFE