Herzog & de Meuron’s M+ museum in Hong Kong opens to the public

The M+ museum in Hong Kong

Visitors can now enter Herzog & de Meuron‘s monumental screen-topped M+ museum, which has opened to the public in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District.

The M+ museum was designed by Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with architecture studio Farrells and claims to be Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture.

M+ museum LCD screen lit up with the M+ logo on the Victoria Harbour waterfront at dusk
The M+ museum is topped with a 12-storey LCD screen for artworks. Photo is by Virgile Simon Bertrand

Located on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour waterfront, the building consists of two volumes – one long and flat and one tall and thin – which intersect to form an inverted T.

One side of the building is completely taken up by a 66-metre-high LED display screen showcasing M+ artworks, which is intended to present a creative retort to the city’s commercial billboards. The museum’s interior houses a research centre, offices, a members’ room and restaurants.

M+ museum by Herzog and de Meuron, viewed in profile showing two volumes intersecting in an inverted T shape
The building is made up of two volumes forming an inverted T shape

Most of the M+ museum’s public areas are located in the lower, three-storey horizontal section of the building, including gallery spaces, screening rooms and a learning hub.

The 65,000-square-metre building opened to the public on Friday, 12 November, with six exhibitions showcasing art, design and architecture from the region and beyond. Approximately 1,500 works from M+’s collection are displayed across 33 galleries and spaces.

Main Hall of the M+ Museum, with lightwell above and cutaways to the Found Space below
The Main Hall features apertures that show hints of the “Found Space” on the level below

Among the opening displays is Antony Gormley: Asian Field, the M+ collection’s most monumental work. It consists of tens of thousands of clay figurines created by the British sculptor together with villagers from a Guandong village.

The figurines form a huddle looking out at visitors in the museum’s West Gallery. This is the first time the work has been shown since its creation in 2003.

Main hall of the M+ Museum with structural concrete columns displaying calligraphic artwork
The structural columns of the Main Hall display specially commissioned artwork. Photo is by Lok Cheng

Another exhibition, The Dream of the Museum, in the entirely bamboo-clad Courtyard Galleries, explores the museum’s conceptual approaches.

Special commissions for the opening include a calligraphic work by Tong Yang-Tze, displayed on the Main Hall’s large structural columns, and installations by Chen Zhen and Danh Vo in the “Found Space”, the museum’s unique excavated area, formed by the concrete shelf covering two metro tunnels that run through the museum.

This space was “found” during building preparations and now “quite literally anchors the entire building in the ground”, according to Herzog & de Meuron.

“Initially an obstacle that complicated planning, this distinctive feature has become the raison d’être for our project,” the studio said. “By uncovering the tunnel, a spectacular space is created for art and design, installation and performance.”

Atrium on the second floor of the M+ Museum with timber floors and concrete trusses and ceiling
The second floor contains galleries in four quadrants leading off a central atrium

The M+ museum has made admission free to all visitors for 12 months. An opening programme featuring tours, workshops, sensory experiences, live performances, screenings and a digital component will run for the first three Fridays and weekends following the launch.

“Our vision for M+ is to build a community of learning that encourages empathy, respect, multiple perspectives and creativity through visual culture for all our audiences to benefit from,” said M+ museum director Suhanya Raffel.

Thousands of small clay figurines stare outwards from a large white gallery space towards one watchful visitor
Antony Gormley’s Asian Field is one of the works showing as part of the opening programme

“By offering an open and welcoming platform with creative learning experiences, M+ is dedicated to creating an active culture that connects people, objects and spaces,” she continued.

Construction on the M+ museum was completed in March of this year. It is one of 17 cultural venues being created as part of the West Kowloon Cultural District on Hong Kong’s harbourside, which was masterplanned by Foster + Partners.

Illuminated cross-shaped artwork hangs high up in an all-concrete gallery space
The museum has opened with six exhibitions and some 1,500 artworks on display

The M+ Pavilion, another exhibition space, opened in the cultural district in 2016.

Other recent cultural projects by Herzog & de Meuron include the ST SongEun Building, a wedge-shaped art institute in Seoul, and a brick extension to the MKM Museum Küppersmühle in Duisburg, Germany.

The photography is by Kevin Mak unless otherwise stated.

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