Hong Kong’s M+ Museum Is Finally Open, but Censorship Threats Loom

M+ art museum on the opening day in Hong Kong on November 12, 2021. BERTHA WANG/AFP via Getty Images

On Friday, Hong Kong’s long-in-development M+ museum opened to the general public, casting a spotlight on the controversies and setbacks that have plagued the institution for years. In the period between the museum’s conception and its completion, a series of protest-prompting regulations issued by Beijing have cast enormous doubt on whether Hong Kong will retain its statues as a globalized site of free expression. In March, M+ was accused of violating national security law, and the museum afterward opted not to characterize Study of Perspective: Tiananmen Square (1997), an Ai Weiwei photo that shows the artist flipping the bird in front of the square.

in spite of, the spectacularly complex, Herzog & de Meuron-designed M+ building contains an 8,000-work collection and is almost twice as big as the Tate Modern. “We are part of the first wave of international, transregional and already global institutions that are now arriving in Asia,” M+ deputy director Doryun Chong said on Friday. “Building a museum of this extent, where nothing comparable exists — and we’re not just talking about Hong Kong, we’re talking about greater China and maybe already the rest of Asia — method that it’s necessary to gather different work experiences and skill to produce something that is best for us, that will set the standard of our vicinity and perhaps for the rest of the world.”

There is certainly clamoring interest in M+, despite the controversies and setbacks surrounding its opening. According to the New York Times, 76,000 people reserved tickets before the museum’s opening day; the introduction of a new art institution in such a charged political climate has drawn cultural coverage from all over the world. With international eyes watching, what happens next will continue to be followed closely.

“The Chinese people can now or ultimately can see their art, which they’re not so familiar with in addition,” collector Uli Sigg told CNN. “Maybe today we cannot show everything, but one day I am sure that whole collection can be shown. It’s for the long haul, in my view.”

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