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Bernard Chan. Photo: Nora Tam.
Bernard Chan. Photo: Nora Tam.

Hong Kong’s M+ Announces New Chairperson

Hong Kong’s recently opened M+ museum of contemporary art has named Bernard Chan as its next chairperson, the South China Morning Post reports. Chan, a businessman and veteran politician who is currently serving as convenor of the Hong Kong Executive Council—a body considered to be the de facto cabinet of the city-state’s chief exec, Carrie Lam—succeeds Victor Lo Chung-wing, who is departing after six years in the position. Chan is contracted to occupy the role for two years from April 1.

In this new capacity, Chan will helm a board of twenty, including new members Anita Fung Yuen-mei, a former HSBC Hong Kong honcho; UOB Greater China chief executive Christine Ip Yeung See-ming; Paulo Pong Kin-yee, founder and managing director of liquor wholesaler Altaya Group; and China Neil Shen Nan-peng, a founding and managing partner of Sequoia Capital. The installation of Chan and the four new appointees, all from the business sector, is said to represent a bid to increase sponsorship as the museum pivots from the design-build phase and the selection of art to a fiscally stable model that is not reliant solely on museum fees and special exhibitions. M+, currently shuttered through April 21 due to a Covid surge in the region, typically does not charge admission. Whether that will change remains to be seen. The institution greeted 370,000 visitors between its November 2021 opening and year-end. The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, which oversees the museum, last year projected that the museum would being operating in the red over the coming three years, as opening and operating costs have left it with just HK$7.9 billion (US $1 billion) of a HK$21.6 billion government endowment at the close of the 2020–21 fiscal year.

Of note, Chan is currently the chair of the board of Hong Kong’s Palace Museum, set to open this July. He is expected to retain that post through the museum’s opening, stepping down at the end of 2022. Also presumably of import are Chan’s political ties to Lam, who since summer 2020 has increased enforcement of China’s national security law in regard to art deemed to be a threat to the government. As a result, M+, under the direction of Suhanya Raffel, who had originally told the press that the museum would not shrink from presenting historically or politically pertinent works, opened minus the planned inclusion of Ai Weiwei’s iconic Study of Perspective: Tian’anmen, 1997, depicting the artist’s middle finger raised in close-up before Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

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