While 2022 was a tough year for many Chinese museums, due to the stringent zero-Covid policy, one new museum enjoyed a popular first year.
Hong Kong’s enormous new M+ museum opened on 12 November 2021, after decades of planning. It got off to a racing start with the museum reporting over 370,000 visitors before the end of that year (around 7,500 a day on average). However local Covid restrictions forced it to shut again on 5 February 2022 and not open again until 21 April 2022.
Despite this it still managed to clock up its millionth visitor by 8 July and two million by its first anniversary. M+ reported 2,034,331 visitors for the whole of 2022, placing it 18th on our table of the world’s most visited art museums. If visitors come at the same rate, then M+ could exceed 3 million visits in 2023.
M+ was the second most-visited Asian art museum in our 2022 survey, behind the National Museum of Korea. Figures for China’s state-run museums have yet to be released. In pre-pandemic times, several of these would beat M+’s figures, topped by the National Museum of China in Beijing, which got 7.4 million visitors in 2019. However the ongoing Covid-related restrictions in China are likely to heavily reduce these numbers. Institutions for which we do have data, such as Beijing’s UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, reported numbers still under half those of 2019, and even lower than in 2021.
Conceived in the years after the British handover, M+ boasts a spectacular building by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron and a strong collection of Chinese contemporary art donated by Swiss collector Uli Sigg. However, in its first year it has already faced accusations of censorship, as it wrestles with increased scrutiny from Beijing.