Less than six months after the suppression of the riots and protests of 2019–20, Hong Kong passed its first National Security Law (NSL) prohibiting—according to particularly strict definitions—“treason,” “secession,” “sedition,” and “subversion” against the Chinese government. Although the new law was not unexpected, many observers were surprised at how rapidly it was enforced against protestors and “rioters.” The effects have been detectable in the art world as well, bringing fears of stricter control of artistic expression and questions about whether self-censorship constitutes a viable survival tactic or an unnecessary sabotaging of cultural progress.
It was in this context that M+, Asia's first global museum of modern and contemporary art, opened its door to the public. How will an ambitious institution of international standing maintain its claim of independence? Taking M+ as the lens, this paper contextualizes the issues faced by Hong Kong's art community by mapping the entanglements of social expectations, ethical responsibilities, and (self) censorship practices that are shaping a post-2020 Hong Kong.