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The M+ Museum in Hong Kong. Photo: Virgile Simon Bertrand/Herzog & de Meuron.
The M+ Museum in Hong Kong. Photo: Virgile Simon Bertrand/Herzog & de Meuron.

Hong Kong’s M+ Gears Up to Open, Removes Ai Weiwei Work

Officials at Hong Kong’s hotly anticipated M+ Museum have announced that the institution will welcome the public on November 12 with an exhibition titled “Hong Kong: Here and Beyond,” and a show of works gifted to the institution by Swiss collector Uli Sigg, whose trove of Chinese contemporary art is one of the most comprehensive in the world. Admission will be free for Hong Kong residents during the institution’s first year.

The opening of the 70,000-square-foot Herzog & de Meuron–designed contemporary- and modern-art museum has been delayed many times, most recently pushed from the beginning of 2021 to June before the announcement of the new date. Imagined more than a decade ago in a much more open political climate, M+ must first undergo review by an increasingly censorious government. To that end, Artnet News reports, its staff has removed Ai Weiwei’s iconic_ S_tudy of Perspective: Tian’anmen, 1997, which shows the artist’s middle finger raised in close-up before Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, from its website, along with an image Ai’s 2003 Map of China, a sculpture made from wood salvaged from Quing-dynasty temples and celebrating the country’s ethnic diversity. The museum in March announced that it would not show the former work in its inaugural exhibition after Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam promised to enforce China’s national security law in regard to art deemed to be a threat to the government.

Adding to Ai’s woes, ArtAsiaPacific reports that Credit Suisse is terminating the bank account of the Fart Foundation, which Ai set up in 2016 to lobby for free speech. In evicting Ai, the Switzerland-based bank cited its new policy of closing accounts belonging to those with criminal records. Ai, who has never been convicted of a crime, decried the bank’s move as motivated by its ambition to do business with China and contends that the closure represents the institution’s revenge on the artist for casting it as hypocritical in yielding to Chinese economic control.