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A guide for your first visit

Hong Kong has a new world-class destination with the grand opening of M+ Museum. This gallery is grand in scale, scope and reach and is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual culture in the world.

I recommend going with a purpose. Plan to walk around unencumbered by taking advantage of the free self-service lockers. There are multiple ways to enjoy this museum, including exploring the building, admiring the architecture, and appreciating the artwork. You can also wander through the roof garden, walk the harbour-facing promenade, relax in the adjacent park in West Kowloon Cultural District, or partake in the other activities available there. All this cannot be done in one visit, so I recommend going repeatedly.

Although the building is eighteen stories tall, the important bits are on the first three floors. Start on the second floor, where the best gallery spaces exist, then migrate down to the main floor and basement. Find the harbour-facing Grand Stair, an inspired multifunctional space that converts to a large theatre. When you are ready for lunch, there is a cafe on level B1 where you can enjoy the harbour view as you contemplate your visit. There are also cinemas, a Mediatheque, a learning hub, and a roof garden that faces Victoria Harbour. The tower houses the museum’s research centre, offices, restaurants, and a members’ lounge, but it is out of bounds for most visitors.

The M+ construction took longer than anticipated, but the delay getting it right was worth it. The green tile ceramic cladding, along with the bamboo finishes are stunning. The use of tall narrow windows is refreshing and offers unending photo opportunities, as dramatic and changing shadows move across sculptures and installations. And, of course, the view of the Victoria Harbour never gets old.

When you are ready to admire the artwork, walk through the galleries slowly, read the captions and listen to the provided online audio commentaries. If you have a wait in line, notice the people, especially the plethora of photographers vying for new camera angles. If you have time, on one of your visits I suggest staking out a chair in The Cabinet and watching as different artworks are autonomously presented and explained via slideshows. I was particularly interested in seeing the black and white photos of internationally acclaimed local photographer Fan Ho, but I was not patient enough.

Another non-walking way to explore the M+ artwork collection is the Mediatheque, located on level B1. It is billed as “a gallery, library and lounge” for moving image work and consists of custom designed immersive viewing booths with on-demand videogames, virtual reality, and over 2,590 videos and films. This is in addition to the other five “moving image centres” (a.k.a. traditional cinemas).

Once you’ve had enough, walk along the West Kowloon Cultural District promenade, find the food truck, sit on a bench or on the grass, enjoy the harbour view, or people watch. If you are there around sunset, go up to the Roof Garden and photograph Victoria Harbour during the golden hour. But be aware that both the promenade and Roof Garden are outside of the paid area of the museum, and there may be a line to re-enter the museum proper.

I suggest going on a weekday to avoid the largest crowds. Finally, like every good public gallery, there is a gift shop. Perhaps on your way out, you may find an appropriate memento of your visit.

Text & Photos Martin Wray