M+, a massive museum slated to open in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District in fall 2021, received a gift of 90 contemporary artworks from collector couple William and Lavina Lim, a leading Hong Kong architect and interior designer, respectively. The donation features work by 53 artists, including prominent South Korean artists Lee Bul and Haegue Yang. Of the group, nearly half are Hong Kong artists, including Lam Tung Pang, Nicole Wong, and even the donor William Lim himself.
The pair’s collection, called the Living Collection, is one of the most substantial private holdings of work by contemporary Hong Kong artists. The Lims began collecting in earnest in the 2000s, before Hong Kong cemented its place in the global art market with the advent of Art HK in 2008 and Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013. The Living Collection, which was installed in a warehouse studio in the industrial neighborhood of Wong Chuk Hang, became a popular stop for international visitors interested in seeing work by emerging and established local artists as the Hong Kong art scene took off.
“Private collectors have been an important pillar in the local artist community, especially in a young and emerging scene with an unestablished structure,” M+ deputy director and chief curator Doryun Chong said in a statement. “William Lim excelled in this role by expanding his commitment from pure collecting to being actively engaged with art institutions, as well as advocating for Hong Kong artists on the international stage.” In addition to co-chairing a nonprofit arts space, Para Site, in Hong Kong, Lim serves on the Asia Pacific Acquisition Committee for Tate and is on the board of Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, his alma mater.
Of the significance of the acquisition, museum director Suhanya Raffel stated: “From the inception of M+’s collecting efforts, Hong Kong visual culture has been a core area of acquisition and currently constitutes an important part of the M+ Collections. The donation both deepens and broadens M+’s holdings in Hong Kong art, and as a result significantly bolsters the museum’s commitment to this area.”
In the Living Collection donation, works made by Hong Kong artists include a large-scale allegorical landscape painting from 2011 by Lam Tung Pang, who is a founding member of Fotanian; a 2012-2013 installation by Au Hoi Lam that explores the artist’s relationship with her father; and a 2015 diptych by Yeung Tong Lung, commissioned by Lim, that depicts Lim’s studio in Wong Chuk Hang.
The South China Morning Post asked Chong about the fact that nine of the 90 artworks donated were made either by Lim or by design firms in his family. “His entries in major architectural biennales are already in our collection so this is not the first time we have collected his works,” Chong said. For over 20 of the artists in the donation, this marks the first time that their work has entered M+’s permanent collection.
“I consider the donation a time capsule where artworks by Hong Kong artists can be preserved and assume an important role in the future history of the city,” Mr. Lim said in a statement. “With the donation to M+ from the Living Collection, which has been installed in our studio in Wong Chuk Hang for years, more people will be able to discover the art created by some very exceptional artists, and learn more about Hong Kong contemporary art.”