SUHANYA RAFFEL: Welcome to M+. We’re in Hong Kong, and we’re about to open Hong Kong’s first global museum of visual culture, and you are about to see a sneak preview of what we have in our galleries and the great facilities and resources available to all of you.
We are now in the Main Hall, our public gathering space in the central part of the museum. A quintessential Herzog & de Meuron space designed for M+ using the muscular structures of concrete and terracotta—internal and outside, you will see—but also the bamboo. Bamboo [is] used for our furniture right throughout the museum, a very sustainable material. It is also a space where we commission artists to make work, including digital artists. And we have right behind me now an amazing patron’s wall, designed by a Japanese digital designer—very eminent—Nakamura Yugo-san.
Another important architectural feature of the Main Hall are the two lightwells that sit on either side of the tower, bringing beautiful, natural light right into this large open space. But we also use the structural columns for our artwork commissions, and right now, you can see the magnificent paintings made by Taiwanese ink artist—senior artist—Tong Yang-Tze, inspired by the ‘I Ching’.
I’m standing in the centre of the Main Hall. And as you can see, there is a major, beautiful aperture—a cutaway—that brings in the natural light from the lightwells all the way down through to the Found Space. The Found Space is named because it was space that was ‘found’ by the architects when they were preparing the museum because the metro lines—the two lines for the Tung Chung line and the Airport Expressway—go diagonally through the museum. And this concrete shelf covers those tunnels.
The first exhibition space that our audiences will encounter here on the Main Hall is the Main Hall Gallery. And we decided that we would fill it with our Hong Kong collection. So, as you can see, Hong Kong: Here and Beyond is the title of this exhibition. As we walk through a set of doors and encounter the first work of art: another set of doors, emblematic of welcoming you all into the space. The work is by King of Kowloon, the great calligrapher, who used the spaces of Hong Kong as his canvas and would spontaneously make work across the city.
M+ commissioned the Hong Kong architect and designer Gary Chang to make a 1:1 model of his home, his flat, and Domestic Transformer is the result. As a designer, in a very tight space—thirty-four square meters, [which is] very familiar to all of us who live in Hong Kong—these tight spaces really improve with very good design. Movable walls that allow the space to expand and contract as needed. His bed, his kitchen, his television, his bath. Behind me you can see the exact replica of the view from his window.
Welcome to the M+ Learning Hub. We've moved from the grand, open cathedral-like space of the Main Hall right into the intimacy of a house of learning. Learning, of course, takes place right throughout the museum, but in the Learning Hub, our principle for learning is experimentation, play, and activity. It's a dynamic space working with artists, architects, designers as well as teachers. And with a philosophy of lifelong learning, from young all the way through. Importantly for us, the Learning Hub is also a space of movement, of the ability to be very open-ended and experimental with workshops, rest spaces, but also the ability to do multiple languages. The Forum space, of course, is an incredible space. And you will see the view out into Hong Kong, as well as being one of the revelations and the gifts of learning in our particular architecture here at the Learning Hub.
At the base of our Conservation and Storage Facility is a display area, which is an open display, a working space of conservation and exhibition-making for the public to view from the outside. It is a working space; it is a research space; it will be a place where workshops will take place, where research is understood and applied to conservation. And we will open with looking at our neon signs, a very important part of our Hong Kong visual culture collections that need a lot of conservation work. And you will be able to see what that means over a period of a year.
DORYUN CHONG: Welcome to the second floor. This is where most of our thirty-three galleries are located. It is a radically horizontal space. It runs 110 meters this way, and 130 meters this way, which is the equivalent of two football fields put together. I’m standing in the central Atrium. From here, our audiences will be directed to four quadrants. There’s West Gallery, North Galleries—also known as the Sigg Galleries—our South Galleries, and East Galleries. They range from 1,500 to 2,500 square metres and are laid out in different configurations.
In Sigg Galleries, we have From Revolution to Globalisation, our first presentation from the M+ Sigg Collection of Chinese contemporary art. Behind me, in East Galleries, we have Things, Spaces, Interactions, showcasing our international design and architecture collection. South Galleries is showing Individuals, Networks, Expressions, highlighting our international visual art collection.
Now I’m entering West Gallery, which is showing the most monumental working from the M+ Collection, and that’s Asian Field by Antony Gormley. Gormley came to China in 2003 to realise a dream project. He found a village in Guangdong Province and worked with 300 villagers to create over 200,000 clay figurines in the span of one week. This is the first time this work has been shown since 2003. We worked very closely with a group of about twenty art students to install this work over three weeks. Our audiences can stand in front of this sea of figurines, and that experience is like facing the whole of humanity.
I’m standing in the Grand Stair, one of the most extraordinary features of this iconic building. It’s an open auditorium that can seat up to 400 people, and as you can see behind me, it is equipped with a large LED screen. It measures five metres high, ten metres across, and it’s on a hoisting structure that positions the screen high up as it is now in a cinematic-mode, or it can be lowered closer to the floor in a lecture mode with the curtains drawn. Under the Grand Stair are our three cinema houses that can seat 180-, sixty-, and forty people. And these cinema houses are also equipped with various formats, including 35mm, 16mm, and digital.
Under the Grand Stair is Mediatheque, our library of the museum’s moving image collection. It has the capacity to seat forty, and it equipped with booths for single viewing as well as seats for multiple people. And this is where you can watch our moving image collection on demand.
We’re in the Courtyard Galleries, which are one of the unique spaces in the M+ building. As you can see, these galleries are cladded completely in bamboo on the floors, on the walls, and on the ceilings. For the inauguration, what we decided to do is to make a jewel box-like exhibition that is a self-reflection, a self-reflection on the significance of building a twenty-first century global museum in and for Asia. And we wanted to tell that story through the conceptual practices within the M+ Collection. In the first gallery, we have four foundational figures, who are Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Nam June Paik, and Yoko Ono. These four figures had very close personal as well as professional relationships, and altogether, they formed and represented the East–West connection that is at the core of this exhibition.
As we walk into the next gallery, we see a broader constellation of practices from more different contexts, times, and geographies. In the first space, as you walk in, you may think that you have entered a space of traditional Asian art, but in fact, each of these works—each of these practices—is very much rooted in the foundational conceptual ideas of chance and readymade. As we walk into the next space, we see some other examples of conceptual practices. For instance, we see another work by Yoko Ono, which is a white chess set, an homage to none other than John Cage, a very important mentor as well as friend to the artist herself. This work is resonating with a performative work by Morimura Yasumasa, where the artist is re-creating, performatively, the historic event where Marcel Duchamp played the chess with a nude young woman. We also have an example of a 1987 work by Huang Yong Ping in those dawn years of Chinese contemporary art, where he created a work that was inspired by and is also an homage to none other than Marcel Duchamp. In the rest of the galleries, we have even more far-flung places and practices. We have figures such as Gabriel Orozco, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Etel Adnan, and Danh Vo.
SUHANYA RAFFEL: Welcome to the M+ rooftop garden. This is a public open space and sits on top of our galleries, galleries that sit on either side of our tower. A tower that houses our LED screen, sixty-six metres high by 110 metres across. [It’s] a programme space, a space for our creative makers that we will commission. In a city full of commercial moving images, we feel absolutely committed to bringing creative content and in a space that is full of beautiful plants and a garden, while enjoying the view of Hong Kong Island. The quintessential view of Hong Kong Island from this very, very beautiful podium.
Come explore M+, Hong Kong’s new museum of contemporary visual culture. We are delighted to share this tour of the opening exhibitions and the many sprawling spaces of the museum’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed building. Join Suhanya Raffel (Museum Director) and Doryun Chong (Deputy Director, Curatorial and Chief Curator) as they walk through the galleries, halls, and moving image venues, introducing along the way some of the iconic works and new commissions to be found inside.
Suhanya Raffel, Doryun Chong
Director of Photography
Richard Fowler, William Lee, Dominic Yip
M+ Video Production
Chris Sullivan, Mimi Cheung
Translation and Subtitle Editing
Amy Li, Amy Leung, Gloria Furness
Rights and Reproductions
William Smith, Diarne Wiercinski, Jaye Yau