Answers from Our Experts (2)
Hong Kong's museum draw from a rich well of history, fine art and ancient traditions to make this city's museum scenes one of the most captivating in the world. If you're looking for the best museums to add to your itinerary, consider these options:
The Hong Kong Museum of Art — the city’s largest art museum, established in 1962 — has been located at its current premises in Tsim Sha Tsui since 1991, though the masterpieces housed inside date back much farther. Today, the museum is home to more than 15,800 unique pieces of art, ranging in style from intricate calligraphy to paintings by contemporary local artists. Permanent collections of Chinese antiquities and historical pictures complement traveling international exhibits, which keep art fiends coming back time and again. The Hong Kong Museum of Art also owns the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware in Hong Kong Park.
At the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, guests can explore six permanent galleries (Orientation Theatre, New Territories Heritage Hall, Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall, T.T. Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art, Chao Shao-an Gallery, Children's Discovery Gallery). Additionally, six thematic galleries host rotating programs designed to appeal to both kids and adults, like an introductory workshop on Cantonese opera headwear. Special events, such as an ink painting demonstration or lectures on traditional Chinese woodblock prints, round out this unique museum's offerings.
Adjacent to the Hong Kong Museum of History, the Hong Kong Museum of Science features about 500 exhibits — many of which are interactive. The biggest permanent exhibit is undoubtedly the Energy Machine, which occupies all four stories of the museum and is the only machine of its kind in the world. Balls zip along wavy or zig-zag tracks powered by computer controlled gates, demonstrating the relationship between energy conversion and movement. Along the way, they strike gongs and chimes, and create a chorus when they hit drums and xylophones. Temporary exhibits add to the fun; when I visited the museum in 2009, an interactive exhibit about candy revealed that there's much more to the wide array of treats wrapped in bright paper than I ever imagined.
When it comes to museums, Hong Kong is no Paris, London, or New York. The city’s largest museum, the waterfront Hong Kong Museum of Art, is generally accepted to be a dud. If you’re tight on time, gallery hopping is generally a better way to soak up culture.
Still, there are some museums worth visiting. The Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of History, and the Hong Kong Science Museum are all highly regarded. In Hong Kong Park, you’ll find the peaceful Flagstaff House Museum of Teaware. And Sheung Wan’s Museum of Medical Sciences is a fascinating place to learn about the formative history of plague in the area.
Perhaps most impressive is the newly built Asia Society Hong Kong Center, located in Admiralty, across from the Conrad Hotel and the British Consulate. The Former Explosives Magazine, as the Center is called, is composed of four revitalized heritage buildings, sites where the British Army used to make ammunitions. Designed by top American architects Todd Williams and Billie Hsien, the site is built into the lushly green hill face and oriented on the horizontal so that it seems to spread outwards like a tree-house, a welcome respite to Hong Kong’s generally tall and narrow buildings.
The gorgeous site itself is reason enough to visit, but inside there’s an exhibition center featuring world-class shows. An upcoming exhibit will feature the works of Communist China’s persecuted artists, including Ai Wei Wei. While visiting, make sure to book a table at AMMO, the Asia Society’s elegant modern fusion restaurant.
The list is growing. Construction on the much anticipated M+ in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District is underway, and hopefully the art museum will open in 2017.