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LCQ3: WKCDA's acquisition policy

     Following is a question by the Hon Christopher Chung and a reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, in the Legislative Council today (February 6):


     In June 2012, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) received from a Swiss collector a donation of 1 463 pieces of Chinese contemporary artworks, with a total value assessed to be as high as $1.3 billion.  The donation will become a permanent collection of M+ (i.e. Museum Plus) in the West Kowloon Cultural District, and will be displayed in dedicated galleries of M+.  Besides, WKCDA has indicated that "part gift/part purchase" has become an increasingly common model for museums to obtain collections in the international arena, and M+ would acquire 47 pieces of artworks from the said collector for a sum of $177 million.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has assessed if the "donation first/purchase afterwards" arrangement between WKCDA and the aforesaid collector is merely a marketing ploy; if it has, of the assessment outcome; whether it knows if WKCDA has signed with that collector an agreement stipulating that M+ must purchase the said 47 pieces of artworks in order to receive the donation of 1 463 pieces of artworks, whether it has so far made public a full list of those 1 510 pieces of artworks and their photos, and whether it has consulted the relevant professionals, art groups or scholars in Hong Kong to ascertain that the collection of artworks is really worth its cost;

(b) given that the Interim Acquisition Committee under the Museum Committee may review and approve a single acquisition valued below $5 million, and make recommendations to the Museum Committee and the WKCDA Board first should a single acquisition value above $5 million, whether it knows how WKCDA determined such vetting-and-approval limit; given that M+ would acquire 47 pieces of artworks from the same collector for a sum of $177 million and the Interim Acquisition Committee may make the acquisition decision all by itself as the average value of each piece of artwork is below $5 million, whether the Government has assessed if there is any loophole in the acquisition mechanism concerned; and

(c) as it has been reported that some local artists disapprove of M+'s spending over $100 million to acquire a large number of works from the collection of an overseas collector and setting up of dedicated galleries for displaying the artworks on a long-term basis, and opine that M+ attaches no importance to local artistic creation, whether the Government knows the criteria for setting up dedicated galleries in M+; whether the Government will require WKCDA to adopt measures in future to enhance the transparency of its artwork acquisition arrangements, and to make M+ more reflective of the unique characteristics of local artistic creation?



     As a statutory body set up in accordance with the Ordinance passed by the Legislative Council, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) has its own functions and powers.  The structure of M+, the major museum of the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), is being developed. To seize acquisition opportunities as early as possible, the Board of WKCDA established the Interim Acquisition Committee in June 2012, and approved the acquisition policy, which sets out the reporting and approval procedures for acquisitions by the M+ team. The Government does not intervene in WKCDA's decisions on selecting and acquiring artworks.

     Last year, WKCDA decided to adopt the "part gift/part purchase" model in accepting Dr Uli Sigg's donation of 1 463 pieces of Chinese contemporary artworks, and in acquiring from Dr Sigg 47 pieces of artworks for a sum of HK$177 million.  According to the assessment made by Sotheby's, an international auction house, the value of the donated portion is around HK$1.3 billion. These artworks mark a significant start to M+ in the development of its collection.

     My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The "part gift/part purchase" model is not uncommon in the international arena.  Some internationally renowned museums have adopted such a model in collecting their artworks.

     The Sigg Collection is one of the important collections of contemporary Chinese art from the 1970s to the present with a vast scale, diversified genres and a comprehensive composition. It assembles artworks across a diverse range of artistic practices and media, from different schools and over many years of artistic production.  Unlike other private collections that reflect personal taste, the Sigg Collection has been systematically built as a museum-quality collection since the early 1990s, showcasing the historical development of contemporary Chinese art. Extremely rare and unobtainable in the current art market, the 47 pieces of artworks acquired by the WKCDA are historically important in that they record the early development of the contemporary art movement in China. As such, the scale, completeness and importance of the Sigg Collection, as well as the difficulty in acquiring Chinese artworks of that period from the current art market, had been taken into consideration when the arrangement of "part gift/part purchase" was made.

     Part of the Sigg Collection has been on display at a number of exhibitions in Europe and the United States. Despite being approached by some internationally renowned museums, Dr Sigg clearly stated that it was his wish to let these precious artworks, which he had collected for almost 20 years, return to China. Through discussion with the M+ team, he has understood M+'s vision and agreed that M+ is a suitable platform for the preservation, display and exchange of his collection.  WKCDA does not consider the arrangement a marketing ploy.

     The M+ team is making every effort to consolidate information about the Sigg Collection, and will make public the list and photos of the artworks later.

(b) WKCDA made reference to international practices in setting the approval limit.  The acceptance of the Sigg Collection by way of "part gift/part purchase" was endorsed by the Board.

     WKCDA sought the advice of the Independent Commission Against Corruption when formulating its acquisition policy. According to the policy, the M+ team of WKCDA is required to provide sufficient justifications for the approving authority's consideration, and to regularly report to the Museum Committee and the Board on the latest acquisitions. The acquisition policy will be reviewed periodically, and any changes to the policy are subject to the Board's approval. WKCDA will continue to refine its acquisition policy with regard to actual circumstances.

(c) Being a comprehensive and extensive collection of contemporary Chinese art, the Sigg Collection will become one of the "seeds" in developing the future collection of M+.

     WKCDA will hold exhibitions of the Sigg Collection, but has no plan to set up a dedicated gallery for any long-term thematic exhibition of the Sigg Collection.

     To show high regard for the donor and his collection, WKCDA will name part of M+'s exhibition space after a foundation established by Dr Sigg, but such exhibition space may not necessarily be used for the display of the Sigg Collection. It is very common internationally to name the galleries of a museum after major donors as an indication of high regard for the donors and their collections.

     WKCDA attaches great importance to local artistic creation. In its five meetings held during the past seven months, the Interim Acquisition Committee approved the acquisition of a total of 364 items, among which over 90% are works of local visual culture. The list of these works will be made public with that of the Sigg Collection later. In addition, M+ plans to organise exhibitions focusing on local art every year to provide a platform to display the talent of Hong Kong artists.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:08


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