M+, at the West Kowloon Cultural District, announced today the acquisition of the Archigram Archive. The core of the archive consists of approximately twenty thousand items, including more than three thousand drawings, prints, sketches, models, videos, ephemera, and other materials, representing some two hundred projects from the 1960s and 1970s. Archigram was a London-based group consisting of six architects: Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, and Michael Webb. For Archigram, architecture was about possibilities and alternatives, networks and infrastructures, and people and activities. The group produced forward-looking propositions that helped reframe how we think about architecture and cities, and their ideas have had a far-reaching impact and resonance around the world for decades. Hong Kong architects and artists such as Tao Ho, James Law (a former student of Peter Cook’s), and Kacey Wong have described Archigram’s profound influence on their practices. M+ acquired the Archigram Archive from the living members of Archigram, and the personal representatives of the deceased members, with their full, enthusiastic support. They see Hong Kong—a city of networks, hyper-intense layering, escalators, media facades, and connective megastructures—as an appropriate home for the record of their work, and for future research and scholarships.
Suhanya Raffel, Museum Director, M+, comments on the importance of the acquisition: ‘We are proud of the acquisition of the Archigram Archive, which was emphatically approved by the M+ Acquisition Committee and the M+ Board, based on the M+ Curatorial team’s rigorous research and argument regarding Archigram’s historical significance for Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Asia generally. This acquisition is one of the milestones in our ongoing effort to build a permanent collection of works of significant global cultural value for the new museum of visual culture for the twenty-first century.’
Doryun Chong, Deputy Director, Curatorial, and Chief Curator, M+, underscores the relevance of the archive to the M+ Collections: ‘The core of M+’s design and architecture collection, as well as the rest of the museum’s permanent collections, are indisputably rooted in Hong Kong and focused on Asia, while the museum’s perspective is simultaneously global and multidisciplinary. The acquisition of the Archigram Archive will greatly enhance M+’s position as a leading voice in the discussion on contemporary architecture, and more broadly, global visual culture, and will also provide a key resource for our ongoing work on architecture in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Japan, South and Southeast Asia, and beyond.’
Aric Chen, Curator-at-large and former Lead Curator, Design and Architecture, M+, emphasises the archive’s potential to uncover new architectural narratives in Hong Kong, in Asia, and beyond: ‘Archigram’s influence is broadly well known, but the group’s interactions and resonance with Asia, from the Metabolists of 1960s Japan through to contemporary Chinese architects, are less explored. We are confident that having the archive at M+ will prompt new frameworks for seeing Hong Kong.’
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 museums, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, as well as provide twenty-three hectares of public open space, including a two-kilometre waterfront promenade.
Archigram was an experimental architecture collective based in London, comprised of six members: Warren Chalk (1927–1987), Peter Cook (born 1936), Dennis Crompton (born 1935), David Greene (born 1937), Ron Herron (1930–2011), and Michael Webb (born 1937). The group was active from 1961 until 1974. Through their publications, exhibitions, multimedia presentations, and drawings, the group embraced technology, popular culture, consumerism, and mass media, envisioning a future of roving metropolises, self-contained living units, and pop-up cities. While Archigram was active and also subsequently, their work contributed to a global conversation on architecture, both drawing from and informing the architectural movements of the second half of the twentieth century.
On the acquisition of the Archigram Archive
The archive has been available for acquisition for ten years, and no institution in the United Kingdom has moved to acquire it before the M+ Curatorial team’s proposal. Following the endorsement and approval by the M+ Acquisition Committee and the M+ Board in 2017, and the completed agreement for acquisition with Archigram, M+ applied for an export licence and was subsequently notified by Arts Council England that the application needed to be examined by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest due to the archive’s potential historical and national significance. The Reviewing Committee held a meeting in July 2018. Representatives of M+ attended this meeting and affirmed that M+ is uniquely positioned to promote access to and study of the work of Archigram, through a commitment to cataloguing and digitisation of the archival material, as well as by drawing from the archive to develop exhibitions, publications, and symposia. Following the meeting, the Reviewing Committee recommended a deferral of the export licence to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the United Kingdom on the basis of the archive’s significance for the study of architectural history. On 19 December 2018, the Secretary of State decided to issue an export license to M+ on the basis that the issue of overriding importance was that the archive should remain intact.