M+, Hong Kong’s museum of twentieth and twenty-first-century visual culture in the West Kowloon Cultural District, is pleased to announce In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections, which will be presented at the M+ Pavilion from 22 June until 30 September 2018. This ambitious and tightly curated exhibition includes seventy works by twenty-eight artists, architects, and designers from nine Southeast Asian countries, plus Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

The exhibition is the museum’s first to address a particular geography, in this case Southeast Asia. Exploring the historical and cultural complexities of the region through an interdisciplinary lens and a transnational framework employed by M+ for its curatorial approach, the exhibition gives special attention to layered conditions of place. While topographic, climatic, political, linguistic, and religious affinities do exist across Southeast Asia, its porous borders have created a deep sense of cultural heterogeneity and fluidity. By featuring works from the fields of design and architecture, moving image, and visual art, the exhibition uses the museum’s growing multidisciplinary holdings to shed light on the diverse and wide-ranging cultural practices within the region over the last half-century.

Suhanya Raffel, Executive Director of M+, emphasises the importance of this exhibition in refining a voice for the museum that speaks from Hong Kong: ‘With this exhibition, M+ presents diverse readings of Southeast Asia through our collections, further articulating who we are as a museum and how we strengthen our grounding in Hong Kong. In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections is an important opportunity for us to develop connections between cultural production in Hong Kong and wider Asia. It also demonstrates M+’s commitment to visual culture as a methodology, by presenting positions and perspectives that are derived from multiple disciplines.’

In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections is co-curated by Pauline J. Yao, Lead Curator, Visual Art, and Shirley Surya, Associate Curator, Design and Architecture. The emphatically interdisciplinary exhibition includes contemporary works of art and design as well as historical archival materials and architectural models. These are grouped into three themes:

  • ‘Conditions of Place’ features work by artists, architects, and designers that addresses specific local conditions, such as historical origins, climate, topography, vernacular materials, and urban environments. Highlights include material related to a project in Bali by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa; models and drawings by Malaysian architect Ken Yeang, Ho Chi Minh City-based Vo Trong Nghia Architects, and Singapore-based WOHA Architects; a large-scale bamboo installation by Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich; a film—exhibited in Hong Kong for the first time—by Vietnamese collective The Propeller Group; and an outdoor piece by Indonesian visual artist Eko Nugroho.
  • ‘States and Powers’ shows how power—exercised through colonial imperialism, nation-building efforts, and contemporary statecraft—can both invigorate and limit cultural expression. Archival material documenting two of the most prolific architectural practices in British Malaya—Booty, Edwards & Partners (later BEP Akitek) and Malayan Architects Co-partnership (later Architects Team 3)—is featured prominently, as is work by contemporary artists Charles Lim from Singapore and Kiri Dalena from the Philippines.
  • ‘Transnational Flows’ investigates global flows of people and ideas within and beyond Southeast Asia. Works presented in this section include a video installation by Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and moving image works by Myanmar-born Taiwanese filmmaker Midi Z and Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, alongside archival material documenting American architect Buckminster Fuller’s engagement with Southeast Asia and projects by renowned Thai architect Sumet Jumsai and Singapore-based graphic designer Theseus Chan.

In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections represents design and architecture, moving image, and visual art practices from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Material by artists and designers who work outside the region, including two Hong Kong artists, is also presented. The exhibition features work by: anothermountainman (Stanley Wong), Architects Team 3 (formerly Malayan Architects Co-partnership) / Lim Chong Keat, Geoffrey Bawa, BEP Akitek (formerly Booty, Edwards & Partners) / Kington Loo, Chun Kaifeng, Kiri Dalena, Simryn Gill, Sumet Jumsai, Zai Kuning, Charles Lim, Midi Z, Eko Nugroho, the Office indochinois du tourisme, the Official Tourist Information Bureau of the Dutch East Indies, Pratchaya Phinthong, Sopheap Pich, Bas Princen, The Propeller Group, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Paul Rudolph, Wilson Shieh Ka-ho, T. R. Hamzah & Yeang / Ken Yeang, Hans Tan, Maria Taniguchi, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Vo Trong Nghia Architects, WOHA Architects, and WORK / Theseus Chan.

Curators Pauline J. Yao and Shirley Surya explain their approach: ‘Given that Southeast Asia is one of the most diverse and fascinating regions in the world, we wanted to honour its vast assortment of cultural expressions by concentrating on isolated moments, individual perspectives, and under-represented microhistories, rather than any overarching narrative or unified perspective. Through the three thematic sections, the exhibition takes the viewer through the divergent, as well as shared, ways artists and designers respond to the multivalent conditions of where they are and how they look at the world.’

In dialogue with the exhibition, M+ presents a new edition of M+ Screenings on 21–23 September 2018, titled Southeast Asia Moving Image Mixtape, which features rarely seen films from Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and beyond. The backgrounds, time periods, and expressions presented in these films reveal multiple histories and offer complex readings of a region rich in moving image cultures. The screenings are held at Broadway Cinematheque, Yau Ma Tei.

A series of complementary programmes, including a talk, a teachers’ private viewing, members’ events, and guided tours, will be planned as part of the exhibition. For more information, please visit www.mplus.org.hk/insearchofsea.


About M+
M+ is a museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong visual culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, we are building one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual culture in the world, with a bold ambition to establish ourselves as one of the world’s leading cultural institutions. Our aim is to create a new kind of museum that reflects our unique time and place, a museum that builds on Hong Kong’s historic balance of the local and the international to define a distinctive and innovative voice for Asia’s twenty-first century.

About the West Kowloon Cultural District
Located on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong. With a complex of theatres, performance spaces, and M+, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, and will provide twenty-three hectares of public open space, including a two-kilometre waterfront promenade.


General Information

Exhibition Period:
22 June–30 September 2018
Wednesday to Sunday and public holidays

M+ Pavilion, West Kowloon Cultural District

Admission is free.

Co-curated by: Pauline J. Yao, Lead Curator, Visual Art; and Shirley Surya, Associate Curator, Design and Architecture; with Vera Lam, Curatorial Assistant, Visual Art; William Seung, Curatorial Assistant, Design and Architecture; and Helena Halim, Curatorial Intern

Exhibition design: Collective Studio

Graphic design: Zak Group


Pauline J. Yao
Pauline J. Yao is Lead Curator, Visual Art, at M+. She has held curatorial positions at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and worked as an independent curator and writer in Beijing for six years, during which time she helped co-found the storefront art space Arrow Factory. Since joining M+ in 2012, Yao has played an active role in building the visual art collection by overseeing and acquiring works from around Asia and beyond. A co-curator of the 2009 Shenzhen and Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, Yao is a regular contributor to Artforum, e-flux Journal, and Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art. Her writings on contemporary Asian art have appeared in numerous catalogues, online publications, and edited volumes. She is the author of In Production Mode: Contemporary Art in China (Timezone 8 Books, 2008) and co-editor of 3 Years: Arrow Factory (Sternberg Press, 2011).

Shirley Surya
Shirley Surya is Associate Curator, Design and Architecture, at M+. She has researched and acquired works representing key post-war design and architectural developments in greater China and Southeast Asia for the M+ Collections since 2012. She co-curated Building M+: The Museum & Architecture Collection and Mobile M+: NEONSIGNS.HK. She made curatorial contributions to the exhibition Incomplete Urbanism: Attempts of Critical Spatial Practice (NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, 2016) on the practice of Singapore architect William S. W. Lim, and the exhibition Yung Ho Chang & FCJZ: Material-ism (Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 2012). Her writings have been published in Place.Labour.Capital (NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and Mousse Publishing, 2018), Encyclopedia of Asian Design (Bloomsbury, 2018), Yung Ho Chang Draws (Joint Publishing, 2015), and journals including Design and Culture, A+U, and Singapore Architect.