After years of construction, several delays, and a series of controversies, Hong Kong’s M+ museum is now set to open on November 12. Hong Kong residents will be able to visit the museum for free during its first year.
Among the museum’s first exhibitions will be “Hong Kong: Here and Beyond,” a wide-ranging survey exploring various factors that have shaped the city over the years, and a show of works given to M+ by Uli Sigg, who has emerged as one of the most important collectors of Chinese contemporary art worldwide.
The 700,000-square-foot M+ will be one of the biggest art museums in Hong Kong and a new destination in the international art world, with a collection drawing from the holdings of significant figures like Sigg, William and Lavina Lim, Hallam Chow, and others.
A sense of uncertainty has loomed over the Herzog & de Meuron–designed museum since even before plans were first announced for an expected opening in 2017. Lars Nittve, the museum’s first director, left two years before that, in 2015. Suhanya Raffel replaced him in 2016. The museum fired its main contractor in 2018, and parted with its chief executive last year.
There have also been doubts about whether M+ will be able to exhibit art that is critical of the Chinese government, despite assertions from Raffel that it could do so. Over the past year, M+ has faced pushback from a number of figures, most notably artist Ai Weiwei. Earlier this year, M+ made the decision not to show Ai’s 1997 photograph Study of Perspective: Tian’anmen, in which the artist sticks up his middle finger at the site where armed troops fired at students protesting the Chinese government in 1989. The Ai work is part of the Sigg donation, and the museum said it would not exhibit the work after Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, promised to uphold a national security law.
On Wednesday, as M+ announced plans to open in November, Artnet News reported that an image of Study of Perspective: Tian’anmen had been deleted from the museum’s website. In a statement to Artnet News, a museum spokesperson said that M+ was “reviewing the treatment of certain images of works having regard to the advice obtained from relevant authorities.”