Monthly Highlights
M+’s strategies in building a world-class collection  
While a shortlist of six design teams were invited to submit proposals for the architectural design of the M+ building last December, the 20th and 21st century visual culture museum is already building a world-class collection of Hong Kong, Chinese and Asian visual culture with its first acquired collection of 1,500 artworks of Chinese contemporary art from world-leading collector Uli Sigg in June last year and its recent acquisition of over 300 art pieces from local artists. Dr Lars Nittve, Executive Director of M+, is happy to tell us more about the museum’s acquisition strategies.

Q: Based on what criteria does M+ make an acquisition decision and what are the procedures?

L: While the structure of M+ is being developed, the WKCDA Board has formed an Interim Acquisition Committee (IAC) in June last year composed of some of the current Museum committee members, who are experienced in visual culture with professional knowledge. An acquisition policy was formulated with advice from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) which sets out the reporting and approval procedures for acquisition by the M+ team. The IAC may review and approve a single acquisition valued below $5 million and the Museum Committee or the Board should a single acquisition valued above $5 million. Such approval limit was set with reference to international practices and the policy will be reviewed periodically as the collection grows. Creative and aesthetic quality, historically importance, coherence among the collection as well as the origin, condition and copyright of the artworks are key criteria when making a decision to form the “backbone” of the museum.

Q: Why did M+ choose the Sigg Collection as its debut acquisition?

L: Considering this is the beginning phase of the collection, it is important to acquire significant pieces or donation of whole collections that can function as seeds in growing the future collection. The Sigg Collection is one of the most important collections of contemporary Chinese art from the 1970s to the present with a vast scale, diversified genres and a comprehensive composition. It has been systematically built as a museum-quality collection showcasing the historical development of contemporary Chinese art. The scale, completeness and importance of the collection, as well as the difficulty in acquiring Chinese artworks of that period from the current art market, had been taken into consideration. These artworks mark a significant start to M+ in the development of its collection.

Q: While the Sigg Collection focuses on Chinese contemporary art, what is M+’s approach to acknowledge Hong Kong artists?

L: We attach great importance to local creation and have recently acquired a total of 364 items, among which over 90% are works of local visual culture artists, including Lui Chun-kwong, Kwan Sheung-chi, Irene Chou (Zhou Luyun) and Chu Hing-wah etc. A list of these works will be announced next month. In addition, we plan to organise exhibitions focusing on Hong Kong art every year to provide a platform to display the quality of Hong Kong artists.

Q: Are there any plans to showcase the Sigg Collection before the completion of the M+ building in 2017?

Due to the lack of professional storage facilities in Hong Kong and considerable cost to be incurred, the collection is currently stored in Switzerland. We plan to ship them back to Hong Kong beginning in 2016, one year before the M+ storage facilities are in place. Before that, the Authority will establish connections with museums in China and overseas to adopt an open policy on short-term collection loan. We will study ways of digital exhibitions enabling more people to appreciate the collection as soon as possible.

Q: How much money has been spent on acquiring artworks so far?

L: Out of the HK$21.6 billion one-off funding, a sum of HK$1.7 billion has been allocated for the collections and its related costs of M+, of which HK$1 billion is specifically earmarked for initial acquisitions. Last year, WKCDA adopted the “part gift/part purchase” model, which is an internationally common way of museum’s acquisition, in accepting Dr Uli Sigg’s donation of 1,463 pieces of Chinese contemporary artworks, and in acquiring from Dr Sigg 47 pieces of artworks for a sum of HK$177 million. Another HK$27 million was spent on the recent acquisition of 364 items.

Q: How will the acquired collection be governed?

L: WKCDA will establish a Collection Trust to be the legal owner and to hold the collections under separate legal ownership from the legal entity responsible for the day-to-day management and conduct of M+. For charitable cash donations, a Foundation Trust will be established under the M+ Board.

Q: What is the plan going forward?

L: Going forward, it will be important to complement the acquired works, with direct acquisitions from galleries, auctions, artists and private collectors, as well as with donations of individual works from collectors and artists. M+ will also be commissioning works directly from the artists as a way to produce a wide range of works that would have the potential of entering the collection. We are on the right track and a prudent approach is adopted in using the endowment.