Last week Tong’s calligraphy with a modern art twist greeted visitors to the hotly anticipated M+ museum in Hong Kong, an ambitious decade-long project to create what has been dubbed Asia’s Tate Modern. The 33-gallery space, in a harbourside building designed by “starchitects” Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with TFP Farrells and Arup, opened last week.
Tong almost rejected the M+ commission when she saw the plans for the space: no walls, all those galleries. Boring. How can you appreciate the art? But, she says, leaning forward and grinning mischievously: “I like a challenge.” Her first thought was to use a contemporary poem for the contemporary city, but instead she did the opposite, choosing passages from the I Ching, a seminal 3,000-ish-year-old Chinese text.
One pillar hosts four separate pieces, each an interpretable message for an individual, another a four-sided wraparound image, forcing viewers to circle the pillar to take it in – ensuring that wherever someone stands in that open, wall-less space, they will have a different experience of her work.
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