As skirmishes between police and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong grow more violent, the state-run Hong Kong Museum of Art—located near the Polytechnic University, where over a thousand activists were trapped during a police siege on the campus last week—is planning to reopen as scheduled on November 30 following a four-year, $119 million renovation and expansion.
Eve Tam, a former director of the museum, told the Art Newspaper that the institution—which has nearly doubled its exhibition space, beefed up its curatorial staff, and organized eleven exhibitions for its upcoming season—will work closer with local collectors to show more regional artists in an effort to become a “truly made in Hong Kong museum.” Tam continued: “Although we are a government museum, we hope to present Hong Kong art stories from these individuals’ perspectives.”
Hong Kong has been roiled by mass protests for months, ever since its embattled chief executive Carrie Lam tried introducing an extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China in June. While the bill was eventually scrapped, unrest in the territory only grew, fueled by dissatisfaction with the current government and police brutality. The political crisis has impacted all facets of life in Hong Kong, including the arts sector.
In June, around one hundred cultural institutions and commercial galleries, among them the Hong Kong pavilion at the Venice Biennale, closed in solidarity with the demonstrators. Since then, artists have joined Hong Kong’s youth on the frontlines of many of the protests. While the upheaval has disrupted the operations of some galleries—Hauser & Wirth recently indefinitely postponed an Annie Leibovitz exhibition slated for its Hong Kong outpost—Adeline Ooi, the Asia director for Art Basel Hong Kong, informed fair exhibitors of the upcoming fair that the show will go on—from March 19 to March 21, 2020—despite the upheaval.
According to Artnews, in an email sent to participating galleries on Thursday, Ooi wrote: “The decision to continue with the show is made in support of everything you, we, our partners, the local art scene, art collectors from Asia and beyond have invested into Hong Kong, our fair and Asia in general over the years.”
While uncertainty lingers about the long-term outcome of the protests, pro-democracy activists celebrated a major victory on Monday following Hong Kong’s district council elections this weekend, which saw record turnout. According to the New York Times, 389 of the 452 elected seats were won by pro-democracy candidates. The landslide victory over pro-Beijing parties places further pressure on Lam and the city’s government to listen to the protesters’ demands.