After more than a decade, the M+ Museum has finally opened – transforming Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District from pleasant promenade into world-class arts venue. With Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture occupying a 700,000 square-foot building, where do you even begin? Here are eight spaces and artworks to start with.
1. See Hong Kong’s neon signs, saved from destruction
The initial M+ highlight presents itself even before you’ve stepped inside. Just across from the main entrance are large windows that peer into M+’s conservation gallery, with neon signs collected from around Hong Kong since 2013 on view. Seek out two iconic animals – the cow of Sammy’s Kitchen and the rooster of Kai Kee Mahjong Parlour, for a glimpse into M+’s work of preservation of neon signs, both in Hong Kong and across the world.
2. Take in a star of the Sigg Collection
The Sigg Collection is the crown jewel of M+: more than 1,500 works of Chinese contemporary art spanning some four decades, donated to the museum by Swiss collector and diplomat Uli Sigg. Fang Lijun’s vibrant 1995.2 is a standout: the piece uses the artist’s recurring themes of bald men and nature to create a sense of past against present, the individual against society; all questioning the nature of socioeconomic change in ’90s China. Keep an eye out for another work by Fang: a colourful portrait of Uli Sigg himself.
From Revolution to Globalisation, Sigg Galleries
3. Explore the huge gallery that is the Found Space
Found Space is the raison d’etre for the building of M+, claims Pritzker Prize-winning architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. Literally a space ‘found’ by excavating the Airport Express tunnels underneath the site, this area anchors the entire museum structure with its use of existing Hong Kong infrastructure. For now, Found Space houses an M+ commission, Haegue Yang’s Sonic Rescue Ropes, and other substantial installations including We the People by Danh Vo – a one-to-one scale replica of the Statue of Liberty, made up of 260-some pieces which are dispersed in exhibition spaces across the world.
4. Check out a multi-million-dollar sushi bar
In 2014, the Kiyotomo Sushi Bar was dismantled piece by piece from its home in Tokyo’s Shinbashi district, placed inside four shipping containers, and transported to be reinstalled in its new home, M+. From restaurant to installation, Kiyotomo Sushi Bar stands as a testament to the ingenuity of Shiro Kuramata, who is considered the most influential Japanese furniture and interior designer of the 20th century. Head inside to see how his signature playfulness balances with restraint – such as in the pairing of bright blues with dark steel – and judge for yourself whether the acquisition price of HK$15 million was worth it.
Things, Spaces, Interactions; East Galleries
5. Get interactive in the Mediatheque
The M+ Collection of more than 250 films and videos awaits here, all available to watch on demand. Search cross-genre works, performances, documentaries and even artist interviews, and watch your clip of choice in a private Viewing Booth with up to six friends. At the Interactive Media Room, you can immerse yourself in virtual reality, digital art and video games with monthly programmes of experimental experiences that take you right into the heart of current innovations – and beyond, to the future of contemporary art.
6. See the transforming Hong Kong microflat
If there’s one work that can represent the very Hong Kong phenomenon of compact living, it’s local architect Gary Chang’s Domestic Transformer, a 1:1 model of his 344 square foot microflat. Chang first lived here with his parents and three sisters at age 14; years later, he completely redesigned the space to accommodate his own changing needs. Chang essentially incorporated 24 rooms into one, creating a fully automated living space with shelving and amenities like a hammock, kitchen and dining area for five. It’s simultaneously ingenious and troubling, a glimpse into an ever-more-compact future.
Hong Kong: Here and Beyond, Main Hall Gallery
7. Write a chain letter that’s also art
For a year and a half after his grandmother’s passing, Taiwanese artist Lee Mingwei wrote letters to her, setting down everything he’d meant to say – but never got to. His interactive installation The Letter Writing Project passes on the sentiment to the visitor: sit, kneel, or stand in one of the booths made of wood and translucent glass, and scribble a note to anyone you please. Post it via the museum, or leave it in place for others to read and contribute to a chain of collective emotion.
Individuals, Networks, Expressions; South Galleries
8. See a sea of clay people
You may have read about the 200,000 handmade figures made by 300 Guangdong villagers over the course of a week – but you really must see Antony Gormley’s Asian Field to believe it. Contemplate the immensity of the effort that’s gone into this project, consider how each individual sculpture was placed with the help of 20 students over three weeks, then ponder the meaning of collectivity and the individual in this memorable exhibition that makes for a great ending to your visit to M+. It’ll certainly nudge you to plan for another visit soon after.