HONG KONG — With its multibillion-dollar price tag and big-name artists, M+, the museum rising on Victoria Harbor, was meant to embody Hong Kong’s ambitions of becoming a global cultural hub. It was to be the city’s first world-class art museum, proof that Hong Kong could do high culture just as well as finance.
It may instead become the symbol of how the Chinese Communist Party is muzzling Hong Kong’s art world.
In recent days, the museum, which is scheduled to open later this year, has come under fierce attack from the city’s pro-Beijing politicians. State-owned newspapers have denounced the museum’s collection, which houses important works of contemporary Chinese art, including some by the dissident artist Ai Weiwei. Hong Kong’s chief executive has promised to be on “full alert” after a lawmaker called some works an “insult to the country.”
The arts sector broadly has endured a blizzard of attacks. A government funding body said last week that it has the power to end grants to artists who promoted “overthrowing” the authorities. A front-page editorial in a pro-Beijing newspaper accused six art groups of “anti-government” activities.
arrested opposition politicians and moved to overhaul elections. They have also pulled books from library shelves and reshaped school curriculums.
projected a Chinese flag onto the ground for viewers to walk on. Another used Tibetan script to express fears that Hong Kong would become similarly controlled.
Concerns about independence have dogged M+ from its conception more than a decade ago . The museum acquired a number of high-profile works, including an image of Mr. Ai raising his middle finger in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and photographs by Liu Heung Shing of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations there. Immediately, officials warned the museum to steer clear of politics.
But optimism also coursed through Hong Kong’s art world over the past decade. The government had increased financial support. Art Basel, the international arts fair, hosts an annual show in Hong Kong.