WILLIAM LIM: I always felt that art is to be lived with, that it should be part of what we do, what we touch, what we see in a day-to-day basis.
When people come to my studio before, they would say that they couldn't tell whether this is art or this is kind of an object, or if it's just a refrigerator, or whatever. And I think that's kind of the interesting thing about . . . about art and about life. We call it the Living Collection.
Since I was young—I mean when I’d go travel, I would buy something that is more like reflecting the local culture.
LAVINA LIM: We like to just get certain things that, so we'll remember where we were.
WILLIAM LIM: So we think the Living Collection is then become these . . . our philosophy about art, that it should be part of the way you live.
LAVINA LIM: It works! And the eyes?
IKKO YOKOYAMA: The eyes . . . yeah. Why do you want to put those in parallel together?
LAVINA LIM: Choosing artworks or buying artworks is very different than buying these things. Like, these things, I think it could be very spontaneous, right? But as far as artwork, I think it's a different focus, right? I need to have the artwork talk to me. I mean, I think I need that connection. Certain things are more emotional, and certain things are more sort of conceptual.
WILLIAM LIM: And then I think it was around 2003, something like that, when the Chinese contemporary art market started to bloom. And so the Hong Kong scene was almost very sad and very [laughs] . . . You know, it's like the artists were not doing anything kind of commercial . It's more personal than commercial.
Then the material they used are quite basic, almost grassroot, like paper, plywood, ballpoint pen. I think the works are quite intricate. I think at that time there are already artists in other places that were hiring people to help them produce. It's almost like a factory production. In a way, it's picking up the very insignificant part of life. You know, art to them is just a way of life. The art they create is a by-product of the way they live.
I would say in the last five years, it’s quite dramatic because of Art Basel and all the people really kind of starting to look at Hong Kong art. And I think artists start to work with very big galleries and some are selling very well. To me, I think it's important to collect almost like milestone projects of an artist. Like, something that really meant a lot to the artist. I think we managed to have certain works here that are very meaningful to the artist.
The Living Collection definitely would represent the early development of Hong Kong contemporary art from almost an infancy stage to the time when it becomes kind of mature enough that institutions are collecting it. Maybe two, three years ago that we . . . actually by chance, we had a conversation with Suhanya, and we would like to make a donation to M+. But these works have to be somehow connected to an overall kind of time capsule type of idea.
DORYUN CHONG: Now this collection is part of the larger M+ Collections then there is a very rigorous international standard practice that we apply to it, that involved not only M+'s curatorial team, but also a team of registrars and conservators, and of course art handlers, our own digital and editorial content team that make sure that the whole project is properly archived and recorded and narrated because this is not just an art installation project, but also it's a space for interior design as well.
SUHANYA RAFFEL: There's something very resonant for M+ because we are a museum of visual culture. And for me, this is a total expression of visual culture because it includes designed objects, furniture, found objects, formal art, experiments, many of these things coming together.
WILLIAM LIM: I think a lot of the artwork has a certain reference to the city itself, the high-rises, the mountains, the islands are in . . . of Hong Kong. And I think that being in this particular location, it really starts to relate to . . . to the architecture, to the city, to the scenery, and everything. I think it's a perfect connection between the artwork and the city.
I always tell everyone that this is like marrying a daughter to a very nice family. They are happily kind of living in their new environment.
When architect William Lim and his wife, interior designer Lavina Lim, first began collecting objects, they were mostly interested in travel keepsakes and Chinese antiques. But in the early 2000s, they shifted focus to contemporary art and, over the past two decades, have amassed a collection of ninety artworks by fifty-three artists, twenty-six of whom hail from Hong Kong. Their collection, as whole, documents the unique trajectory of Hong Kong art in the twenty-first century.
Today, the Living Collection is housed in the M+ Lounge. Placing formal art alongside design, furniture, and found objects, the presentation is a total expression of visual culture, meant to be lived with and enjoyed up-close and in dialogue with the city outside the windows. William and Lavina Lim speak about what drives their collecting, the evolution of the Hong Kong art scene, and the donation of their collection to M+.
- Produced by
- Researcher Writer
Sam Tam, Dino Wong, Kendra Koh
Bun Chan, Huang Li Wei
- Camera Assistant
Kwan Ming Fai, Ken Mok, Leung Sung Nok
- Sound Recordist
Victor Lam, Chiu Ho Chi
- Transcript & Subtitle
Iyuno Media Group
- M+ Curatorial Research
Hester Chan, Ikko Yokoyama
- M+ Video Production
Chris Sullivan, Jaye Yau, Jessica Law
- M+ Text Editing
LW Lam, Amy Leung, Gloria Furness
- Special Thanks
William Lim, Lavina Lim, William Smith, Keri Towler, Tiffany Luk, Fion Wong, Cyndi Chan