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Curator leaves M+ to help get Hong Kong Jockey Club's cultural centre up and running

Tobias Berger crosses bay to lead art programme in former Central Police Station

Tobias Berger has been named head of art of the long-awaited cultural centre in Hong Kong’s Central Police Station (CPS). Berger, who for the past four years has been a curator at M+, the planned museum of visual culture in West Kowloon, will start his new role in May. The troubled redevelopment of CPS is being funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club charity.

In a statement, the director of CPS Euan Upston said that Berger's appointment—which was announced along with that of Winnie Yeung as head of heritage—signifies “a major step forward for the project, injecting new energy to take the revitalisation vision to reality.” Upston joined the CPS’s management team in June 2014 after serving as chief operating officer of Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art where he oversaw its successful A$53m ($41m) revamp and relaunch.

Hong Kong’s art community has welcomed the news of Berger’s appointment. The German-born curator is well liked for his support of local artists and for being highly accessible. He is a specialist in the Fluxus art movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Berger was previously the director and curator of Para Site, the independent non-profit contemporary art organisation in Hong Kong, and before that he was the chief curator of the Nam June Paik Art Centre in Seoul.

While at M+, Berger organised pop-up art exhibitions, including the mini take-over of the gritty Mongkok neighborhood, and the outdoor show of inflatable art at the West Kowloon site of the future museum. Being a native German-speaker, much of his work in the past few months involved co-ordinating with M+’s architects, Basel-based Herzog & de Meuron.

Coincidentally, Herzog & de Meuron is also behind the new main contemporary art space at CPS, a project that has had a tortured history. The Jockey Club, which runs the city's horse racing operations, has revised its plans for CPS’s art strand several times in the past five years. At one point, the British-born curator David Elliott was on board, but he eventually left. The charity also invited proposals from arts organisations to run the art programme, a two-year-long process that the Jockey Club shut down last year. (Disclosure: the writer serves on the board of Para Site, which was part of a consortium that expressed an interest in operating the CPS art programming.)

Berger will workclosely with an “art working group,” headed by the Thai-Chinese insurancetycoon Bernard Chan. The group includes DeanEve Tam, theexecutiveassociate ofthe Hong Kong Baptist University Graduate School, CalvinHui, the furniture dealer and Fine Art Asia fair director, John Batten theHong Kong-based artcritic and the artist Stanley Wong.