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- West Kowloon Cultural District / M+

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Collecting for M+
at 2:41pm on 10th August 2012

1. Hong Kong artist Gaylord Chan at the opening of the first exhibition organised by M+ , Lunar New Year 2012.

2. M+ Museum's inaugural group exhibition during the 'Bamboo Theatre' Cantonese Opera performances at Lunar New Year, 2012. The Museum's first acquisitions include Gaylord Chan's designed flags (seen hanging along the sides of the bamboo theatre).

3. Michael Wolf's lightboxes of Cantonese opera stars photographed in the streets of Yau Ma Tei were also acquired after M+ Museum's inaugural group exhibition.

All photographs by John Batten.

( 中文翻譯請往下看 Please scroll down to read the Chinese translation.)

Hong Kong’s new public museum, M+, has a stated mandate for its future collections to focus “on visual culture from (the) 20th and 21st century and traversing art, design, architecture and the moving image and with a world-class collection, M+ will be developed from a Hong Kong perspective, but with a global vision and outreach.”

Putting aside the tight correctness of this statement, the building of such a museum collection sounds challenging when art pieces are priced out of reach for even the most richly endowed museums. But the important ingredients to successfully build a great public collection are time and scholarship.

Discussions about the West Kowloon Cultural District and its museum over the last ten years have often cited examples of long-established museums in Europe and USA. However, I have long believed that the geographically closer National Gallery of Australia (NGA) is probably Hong Kong’s best model for guidance. Established only in 1967 with a small, insignificant collection, the gallery did not occupy its own permanent home until 1982. In those intervening years, and working from scratch, the NGA’s curators slowly built a formidable collection in key areas.

The recipe for a good collection hinges on that word “slowly”. Combined with careful research, scholarship and the building of relationships with artists and collectors, M+ can also build a dynamic and relevant collection over the next 50 years. Forget collecting European and American modernist masters, they will – unless through a willing donor – not be featured in M+. Hong Kong’s collection will predominantly be sourced from our own city, Greater China and our nearby Asian neighbours.

On a smaller scale, I did similar for an American law firm whose new offices in the Citibank Tower were slowly filled with good intelligent art on a limited budget. Most architects and interior designers want their design complete with art in situ, bought or commissioned within a tight timeframe. However, for this project and liaising directly with the law firm’s principal partner, the art was slowly accumulated over 18 months as it became available from artists and in exhibitions. Stellar artists as Heri Dono, Michael Wolf, Yang Yongliang, So Hing Keung, Ralph Kiggell, Fiona Wong and Frank Vigneron now grace their office, and to paraphrase the NGA, the law firm staff would acknowledge that their  collection is “preserved and presented for their enjoyment and education.”

This article was published in Perspective architecture magazine, June 2012.




西九龍文化區與M+博物館的討論已長達十年,過程中時常引歐美一些歷史悠久的博物館作例子。但是,我一直都認為地理位置更靠近香港的澳洲國立美術館,會是可供香港借鑑的最佳榜樣。澳洲國立美術館在1967年創立,當時的館藏藝術品數目既少又沒有甚麼大作,直至美術館在1982年得到固定展館之前, 美術館的策展人從零開始,一直慢慢搜羅藝術品,終於在某些範疇中累積出驕人的館藏系列。


我曾經為一間美國律師行做過類似的事,只是規模要小得多。他們的新辦公室位於花旗銀行大廈,我在有限的預算內慢慢為他們添置傑出的藝術品。大多建築師與室內設計師都希望為自己設計的地方,在落成時有藝術品為它畫龍點睛,通常都是在緊迫的時間表下購買或委約的藝術品。不過,這次我直接與律師行的首席合伙人交涉,以18個月的時間慢慢直接從藝術家或在展覽中搜羅藝術品。結果,辦公室以不少星級藝術家的作品粉飾,包括Heri Dono、Michael Wolf、楊泳梁、蘇慶強、Ralph Kiggell、黃麗貞及Frank Vigneron。就像澳洲國立美術館的例子一樣,律師行的員工會這樣稱讚他們的藝術收藏品:無論或保存或展示,都是集享受與教化於一身的好藏品。


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