Suhanya Raffel, the sparkling museum’s director, had this to say: “Our vision is to build a community of learning that encourages empathy, respect, multiple perspectives and creativity through visual culture for all of our audiences to benefit from. By offering an open and welcoming platform with creative learning experiences, M+ is dedicated to creative an active culture connects people, objects and spaces. It is our hope that the museum inspires the city’s residents and international visitors alike.”
For most Hong Kong people who have not been able to travel for almost two years, the journey into a world-class museum with all the bells and whistles – a building by star Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron; works by such global artists as Ai Weiwei, Mark Bradford, Antony Gormley, Yoko Ono and Haegue Yang; and outstanding collections including Uli Sigg selection of Chinese contemporary art – is well worth the wait. This is art therapy when our community needs it most.
As an arts and culture hub, Hong Kong may not yet be on par with New York and London, bit it is off to a good start. It is notable that M+ has one of the most diverse staffs of any major museum in the world, with individuals hailing from 27 countries. The glaring lack of diversity in the workforce including the boards of some of the cultural institutions in the West is something that younger organizations in Asia should learn from. Arts and culture is not just for the “haves” but must also be for – and run by – the “have nots”. Indeed, Asian voices and perspectives came through loud and clear at the M+ opening. As the geopolitical and geo-economic centers of gravity have shifted eastward, with rising prosperity and the world’s biggest middle class, Asia now has the artists, curators, donors, collectors and the institutions to present regional perspectives on global artforms.
In a divided, arguably broken world, disrupted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, shaken by a global financial crisis a dozen years ago, put on edge by major-power rivalries, sent into a tailspin by Covid-19, and challenged by the existential threat of climate change, the message is obvious: Arts and culture can be the healer, the uniter, the connector, and the catalyst for action to bridge differences, lessen inequality and create new opportunities for collaboration. Hong Kong may again provide another lesson in cooperation and connectivity with the opening next year of its own Palace Museum.
Creating and connecting
The future is all about creativity. Arts and culture institutions in Asia, in particular, can lead the way by innovating. The fusion of art and technology could be an area of endless opportunity, what with the growing interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and China’s leading edge in tech innovation, especially in the Greater Bay Area, the mainland’s technology hub.
In an opinion essay for Time magazine published in 2019, Kai-fu Lee identified four kinds of jobs that will be safe from the AI revolution: