Hong Kong invites museum chiefs, arts leaders from around world to summit to foster East-meets-West exchanges

Hong Kong invites museum chiefs, arts leaders from around world to summit to foster East-meets-West exchanges

Almost 30 overseas arts and cultural institutions are expected to sign deals with Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District Authority at a high-profile summit next month, paving the way to bring works of art and performances from around the world to the city.

About 1,000 participants have been invited to the International Cultural Summit on March 25 and 26. It will be the first international event to mark the beginning of the city’s Art Week, coinciding with Art Basel Hong Kong and other major cultural events.

Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee, CEO of the authority, said officials from 10 of the world’s top 40 museums and arts hubs would be at the summit.

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Betty Fung, CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, has said people will no longer call Hong Kong a “cultural desert” after the organisation’s drive to foster cooperation with overseas museums. Photo: Jonathan Wong

They include high-level representatives of the British Museum, France’s National Museum of the Palaces of Versailles and Trianon, Japan’s Tokyo National Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar.

“We are very ambitious and want to make this representative. It also helps show Hong Kong as a cosmopolitan city,” she told the Post in an interview.

The summit would also showcase the city’s role as an East-meets-West centre for international cultural exchange as stipulated in China’s latest five-year plan, she added.

“To achieve this, we must bring people to Hong Kong,” she said. “The exchange could take place in the form of collaborated exhibitions, but to have a meaningful dialogue, we need their in-person presence to discuss topics of concern to everyone.”

She said the summit would discuss how arts hubs shaped a city in social and economic aspects, and what technology such as artificial intelligence and blockchain meant for the arts sector.

Visitors will see major recent changes in Hong Kong’s cultural scene with the opening of the M+ museum and Hong Kong Palace Museum in West Kowloon and the reopening of institutions such as Tai Kwun, Central Market and the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

“No longer will people call Hong Kong a cultural desert,” Fung said. She added with a laugh: “If anyone did, I’d tell them off.”

Half of the cost of the summit is sponsored by the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau.

“Through the summit, we can bring together many top directors, many of whom have not been to Hong Kong before because previously there weren’t any counterparts to their institutions,” Fung said.

She said collaborations with overseas museums include bringing their exhibitions to Hong Kong, co-organising a tour of such exhibitions with other Asia-based museums for collections from far away places such as the United States or Europe so that transport, insurance costs and loan fees could be shared.

Beijing ‘expressed confidence in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon arts hub’

“The third type of collaboration would be our exports,” Fung said. “It’s not just about what we bring in but also what we offer. Our Yayoi Kusama exhibition was attended by 500,000 to 600,000 visitors at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, breaking their entrance records. The exhibition is headed to Portugal next.”

Fung said consuls general in Hong Kong had been invited, presenting networking opportunities. Gallery owners, art buyers, collectors and industry professionals in the city for other Art Month events were also expected.

Fung also said the international cultural sector had not raised concerns about the national security law imposed by Beijing or the city’s own one required under Article 23 of the Basic Law.

“We started inviting them last year. We are only adding to the list of our speakers with no cancellations so far,” she said.

“We will be focusing more on hot topics within the industry such as inclusiveness, diversity, sustainability, as well as how to make art more accessible.”

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