M+ stands for a “Museum and more” and yes, it lives up to its name. As the Museum Director rightly put it, its not just art but a confluence of theatre, music, digital, ink art and much more.
Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architecture firm, Herzog De Mueron, a horizontal museum building spans a whopping 700,000 sq ft, nearly twice the size of London’s Tate Modern. It is a sight to behold in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon District. The building with its metallic rails and wooden floors is in the form of an inverted T. It has 33 galleries that span 17,000 sq m of exhibition space across two floors. It boasts of over 6,400 works in its collection that range from modern and contemporary art to architecture and moving images. The museum is built on reclaimed land and underneath the site is the MTR Airport Express and the Tung Chung Line tunnels.
The museum was supposed to open in 2017. But construction delays and other logistical problems pushed the date back to 2019, then 2020, and finally 2021. On its opening day in Nov’21, it saw some 11,000 visitors!
Some of the best-known works in the M+ collection was created by exiled dissidents, such as Ai Weiwei, or draw upon topics that are taboo in the Mainland, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. One of the works by
Ai depicting himself raising a middle finger at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was a source of controversy and ultimately had to be omitted from the museum. Nevertheless, there are still some fascinating and provoking pieces of art displayed at the museum; although the bare-minimum captions mean that viewers will need prior knowledge to recognize these potent political references for themselves. Like for instance, the artwork “Whitewashing” of wounded penguins being transported by anguished citizens is a depiction of the Tiananmen Square event.
The main hall’s gallery houses the exhibition “Hong Kong: Here and Beyond,” which displays art from 1960s to the present. The history of Hong Kong was quite interesting as it showcased work from the 1980s to present day urban skyscrapers.