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Hong Kong Museum of Art to finally begin its major renovation

Delays mean the city will have no public art museum for at least three years

The Hong Kong Museum of Art (HKMA) finally announced its temporary three-year closure from 3 August for a comprehensive renovation. The makeover, which was supposed to start in 2014, is behind schedule because budget approval was delayed following filibustering in the Hong Kong legislature and by the Umbrella Movement protests.

The renovation, to be undertaken by the government’s Architectural Services Department, will cost HK$934.4m ($120.5m), and will include creating a new annex, and a rooftop that can be used for art events. The harbourfront museum, which has a mission to showcase Hong Kong art, will increase its exhibition space by more than 40% to 10,000 sq. metres. Part of the museum will reopen in around three years, but the project will only be finished completely in 2022 at the earliest.

Although the renovation of the structure, which was inaugurated in 1991, has been generally welcome, many in the Hong Kong art world question the wisdom of undertaking the renovation before the expected 2019 opening of M+, the planned museum of visual culture in West Kowloon.

Despite Hong Kong’s prominence as a global art market hub, it will be in an awkward position of having no operating public art museum building for the next three years at least.

In a paper submitted to the Hong Kong legislature earlier this year, museum officials noted that they were aware of the problem but that public consultations indicated that the art community is “firmly of the view that there is a great urgency for the HKMA to upgrade and expand its facilities to enable it to fulfill its mission of promoting and supporting Hong Kong art, and a three- to four-year delay is considered not acceptable.”

Until the HKMA reopens, the museum will hold pop-up exhibitions in various public parks, at the Hong Kong City Hall and the Hong Kong Central library. Along with the official announcement of the closure, the government launched an Instagram campaign (at #SEEUMA) to allow Hong Kongers “to share their precious memories of the museum with others”. Prizes will be awarded weekly until 2 August for the 45 best uploads.