24th April 2013
<Chan Kam-lam: Items with Political Elements are not Arts, West Kowloon Management: May Not Retain Post without Self-Determination>
During the meeting on 23rd April, the Joint Subcommittee to Monitor the Implementation of the West Kowloon Cultural District Project discussed the planning and development of the M+ Museum. Some lawmakers expressed their concern on whether the museum has full independence and liberty in acquiring exhibits. Chan Kam-lam, lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB)* said, “any item that is obscene and indecent, or contains element of politics or humiliation, is not a piece of art.” The management of the Western Cultural District Project emphanised that the museum has to have independence and the right to self-determination, otherwise the management may not retain their positions.
*editor’s note: the largest pro-Peking political party in Hong Kong which is notorious for being quislings of the Peking government and betraying the interests of Hong Kong. The online community calls it 禮義廉, literally means “propriety, justice and honesty”, after the traditional saying “禮義廉恥” which means “propriety, justice, honesty and shame”, a sarcastic reference to DAB’s having no shame.
Cyd Ho Sau Lan, founding member of the Labour Party, said that when the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority acquired art exhibits created by Ai Wei-wei, a dissenter in China, the Authority was facing pressure from various directions. It is crucial to ensure that the exhibition planners and West Kowloon executives have independence and liberty on arts-related work. The museum recently acquired a picture by Ai Wei-wei in which a middle finger is pointing at Tiananmen Square.
Chan Kam-lam at DAB said he totally respects the Authority has freedom to express their views on acquiring art pieces, “However, there are principles on expressing their views. Any item that is obscene and indecent, or contains element of politics or humiliation, should not be regarded as art. Although they have freedom to express their views, but the word freedom does not come from thin air, it has to be picked by people.” He added, “(I) hope you can always remember, art is art, culture is culture.”
Lars Nittve, the Executive Director of M+ Museum, emphasised that he values the freedom and self-determination of selecting pieces of art for a museum. If selection is being interfered with, the team he leads will not want to stay at their positions.
Lawmakers Question Whether West Kowloon has Become a Party Venue for the Rich
Veronica Chou, the granddaughter of Dragon Air’s founder and married to a Russian-gold-mine-owning tycoon, hired West Kowloon Cultural District for her private wedding. Kenneth Chan Ka-lok from the Civic Party expressed his concern and questioned whether the public space would be “privatised” and become a party venue for the rich. Michael Lynch, the CEO of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, said that private functions are not allowed at the West Kowloon Cultural District. All function applications are reviewed carefully to ensure each function is in line with the District’s goal.
Lynch mentioned that similar to West Kowloon Cultural District, the Sydney Opera House also makes private income to sponsor activities that benefit the general public. The wedding function mentioned brought in HK$1 million (approximately US$130,000) of income, which will be used to sponsor “free” activities for the public.