M+ Museum of Visual Culture in Hong Kong (HK)


Aga Wielocha is a collection care professional specialised in contemporary art. Currently, she holds a position of Conservator, Preventive in M+ Museum of Visual Culture in Hong Kong, where she designs strategies to support efficient care of growing collections of visual art, design, architecture and moving image. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam School for Heritage and Memory Studies within the research program “New Approaches in the Conservation of Contemporary Art” (NACCA), a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network funded by the European Commission. Her research is focused on the lives and futures of contemporary art in institutional collections, particularly on works which are variable and unfold over time. She is interested in how contemporary art challenges traditional categories of artworks and documents, collections and archives, as well as museum conventions and procedures, and looking at alternative ways of collecting that are compatible with today’s artistic practices. Prior to the doctorate studies, she served as a conservator at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Poland. She holds a Master’s degree in Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art from the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, Poland.


A Fat, Juicy File of Web Art: Net Art in the Museum and New Ways of Collecting

In 2016, Hong Kong’s M+ Museum acquired the entire body of work, past and future, of Seoul-based internet art duo Young Hae-Chang Heavy Industries (YHCHI). The initial batch of works, accessioned under one title YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES: THE COMPLETE WORKS (YHCHANG.COM/AP2) included more than 450 animations created initially in now obsolete Adobe Flash format. The ‘collectible’ consists of videos that YHCHI share on their website accompanied by drafts and preparatory work, artworks that had previously been presented as installations, and public performance lectures. The internationally unprecedented decision of M+ shifts a commonly asked question on what it means for an institution to own a net art piece, to what it entails for a museum to own a still-expanding oeuvre by living net art artists.
This paper will address these questions by examining how this ‘unruly’ musealium challenges institutional collection care practices and how museums as safe-keepers can learn and benefit from dealing with unconventional musealia. Through the example of the collaboration between YHCHI and M+, it will reflect on the importance of establishing long-term relationships between institutions and artists for perpetuating media art forms.

Unpacking the YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES acquisition at M+. | Photo: M+, Hong Kong