Tomás Saraceno, Poetic Cosmos of the Breath, 2013, translucent foil. Installation view, M+ Mobile Project, Hong Kong.


“Inflation!” surges as a continuation of the M+ Mobile project, an initiative started last year by M+, a museum for visual culture that is set to open in Hong Kong in 2017. The exhibition, featuring seven colossal inflatable sculptures from local and international artists, sits on the tip of the West Kowloon Culture District and has attracted an unprecedented number of local visitors. Tobias Berger, curator of the show, speaks here on the origins of the inflatable concept and the transformation of art awareness in Hong Kong. “Inflation!” is on view until June 9, 2013.

I NEVER THOUGHT I would curate an exhibition consisting of solely one medium. The medium specificity was inspired by certain conditions; we wanted something that could be temporary, sculptural, visible, and challenging all at once. One could say that all the works that were included fell under this same idea of the inflatable, but the approach taken by each artist varies. Liu Jiakun’s strategy in With the Wind, 2002/2009, is very different from Jeremy Deller’s taken in Sacrilege, 2012, which includes strong references to a bouncing castle. But this exhibition is not about research into the history of inflatable sculpture. It is more about this new space where the museum will be built.

The venue for this exhibition is the interface between the site of the future museum and its surrounding park. M+ will soon be responsible for all of the public art in West Kowloon Cultural District. For us, it was important to delve into the idea of public sculpture as well as to explore the parameters that apply when sculpture is installed in a natural setting. Public sculptures are made to be encountered without preparation; one often stumbles upon them in spaces such as plazas. But the term “public sculpture” in its normative sense doesn’t necessarily apply in this case. At the moment, the venue is not easily accessible via public transportation. It is disconnected from the city infrastructure. In this way, “Inflation!” is a very contained exhibition. Anyone who wants to see it has to intentionally go there.

The artists we invited are testament to M+’s mission toward a diverse visual culture, which at the built museum will include art, design, architecture, the moving image, and performance. Choi Jeong Hwa, for example, was initially known as an interior and shop designer; Jiakun is an architect. We also wanted to bring in iconic works from overseas, like Paul McCarthy’s Complex Pile, 2007, while supporting art from the Hong Kong region. That is how we hope to frame the entire M+ Mobile program and our future museum shows.

Seven years ago, there wasn’t much contemporary art in Hong Kong. People used to describe the city as a “cultural desert.” Now that has completely changed. This exhibition alone had one hundred thousand visitors in the first week. In the early days, the audience was evenly split between expats and locals; today we have ninety-five percent of visitors coming from Hong Kong. There is a huge local interest in art, especially challenging art set within the public domain.

— As told to Xue Tan