Hong Kong collector Hallam Chow donates five artworks to M+ Museum of the West Kowloon Cultural District.

Hallam Chow’s donation includes artworks by five renowned artists of South and Southeast Asian origin: Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, L. N. Tallur, Sopheap Pich, Jompet Kuswidananto and Eko Nugroho.

Winning Architectural Design of M+ Building by Herzog & de Meuron + TFP Farrells. Image courtesy West Kowloon Cultural District.

Winning Architectural Design of M+ Building by Herzog & de Meuron + TFP Farrells. Image courtesy West Kowloon Cultural District.

M+: going against the trends of the global museum boom

M+ has been steadily building their collection since the late 2000s, unlike many of the museums built in the period 1990-2010 as part of a global museum building boom and that opened without a single artwork to their name. Barcelona’s Museu d’Art Contemporani, London’s The Power Station of Art and Beijing’s Red Brick Contemporary Art Museum all opened without a permanent collection.

When in 2012 Swiss collector Uli Sigg announced he would be donating the majority if his collection of Chinese contemporary art to M+ museum, it seemed to confirm that the institution was on its way to completing its stated mission of becoming a cultural platform for Hong Kong and Asia, as well as building a collection that would be a serious rival to London’s Tate Modern and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Mr Hallam Chow’s donation acts as a further vote of confidence for the museum, proving that M+ and its permanent collection is an adequate home for the region’s most important artworks.

Eko Nugroho, 'Untitled', 2010. Vinyl installation Dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist.

Eko Nugroho, ‘Untitled’, 2010, vinyl installation, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist.

Mr Hallam Chow: encouraging regional collecting and donating

As the grandson of a Chinese antique collector, the late Mr Edward T. Chow, Hallam Chow began collecting art from a young age. As well as running a law practice, in the last ten years he has been involved in philanthropic endeavours across the Asia-pacific region, supporting education-based initiatives, museum exhibitions, and workshops that promote cultural exchange between Asia and other parts of the world. During this period Chow built a sizeable contemporary art collection by Asian artists.

Sopheap Pich, 'Head in Arms', 2010. Rattan and burlap, 69 x 72 x 39 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and M+.

Sopheap Pich, ‘Head in Arms’, 2010, rattan and burlap, 69 x 72 x 39 cm. Image courtesy the artist and M+.

As stated in the press release, Mr Hallam Chow has said:

My donation of the selected artworks aims to help M+ build a truly diversified collection. I hope to also inspire other local and regional collectors to share important works by regional artists with M+. The contribution of Asian regional artists to the overall development of contemporary art in Asia is important and cannot be overlooked.

Chow’s donation followed the footsteps of his grandfather, who also donated his large collection to institutions in the region such as the Hong Kong Museum of Art and Shanghai Museum of Art. In a statement, Lead Curator of Visual Art Pauline J. Yao, said:

The selection of these artists was made carefully to represent wide range of artistic traditions in the region and to help bring more awareness for South and Southeast Asian art in Hong Kong and amongst neighboring public museums. It is a donation that will form a valuable foundation for the museum to build upon

L.N. Tallur, 'Colonial Sisters', 2008. Rosewood 160 x 60 x 52 cm, 30 fragments, size variable. Image courtesy of the artist and Arario Gallery.

L.N. Tallur, ‘Colonial Sisters’, 2008, rosewood, 160 x 60 x 52 cm, 30 fragments, size variable. Image courtesy the artist and Arario Gallery.

M+: collecting strategy and postcolonial perspectives

Earlier this year, Suhanya Raffel, the director of collections at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, was appointed as Executive Director of M+. The five works by Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba (b. 1968, Japan), L.N. Tallur (b. 1971, India), Sopheap Pich (b. 1971, Cambodia), Jompet Kuswidananto (b. 1976, Indonesia) and Eko Nugroho (b. 1977, Indonesia), reflect the interests of the M+ curators in building a portfolio of works that explore the economic, political and social issues and processes relevant to the region: globalisation, colonial and post-colonial histories, cultural hybridity and national and postnational identities. In a statement on their website that lays bare their collecting strategy, representatives of M+ collection state that

the collection will reflect the historical implications of local, regional and global networks on visual-cultural production that will bring about a more nuanced understanding of cultural hybridities across Asia and their relationships to the rest of the world.

According to the press release, the works donated by Mr Hallam Chow have been created by artist’s who

have grown up in different locales and been a witness to their home countries undergoing various stages of political and social transformation, these artists have forged artistic languages that speak singularly to the condition of being both local and global. Themes in their work emerge from ongoing confrontations with post-colonial histories, negotiations of new temporalities and continued explorations of the concept of ‘Asianness’. The artists’ shared experience of a colonial past and post-independence identity struggles parallels other Southeast Asian nations as well as Hong Kong, making the donation a fitting addition to the M+ Collection.

Colonial Sisters (2008), by L.N. Tallur, for example, is reflective of the Indian artist’s clever juxtaposition of symbols of traditional Indian culture with contemporary ideas and materials. The work is a sculptural installation intent on denaturalising notions of ‘tradition’ in India, in order to dismiss it as a lucrative and consumable construct. Having grown up in a rural community in southern India, Tallur often incorporates found objects and handmade craftsmanship in his work producing works that offer cogent commentaries on labour, culture, production and consumption.

Rebecca Close


Related topics: Acquisitions, East Asian artist, South Asian artist, Globalisation, Museum collections

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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