Tobias Berger to Assume Role as Head of Art at the Central Police Station in May
By Emma O'Neill
The Hong Kong art world has been waiting for the announcement of the leadership for the much-anticipated renewal of the Central Police Station (CPS). Among the new appointments at CPS, German-born Tobias Berger will be assuming the coveted role of head of art.
Backed by the local government and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust (The Trust), the project looks to reclaim a total of 28,000 square meters—made up of 16 historical buildings—to create a new contemporary art and heritage site. Situated in the heart of the city, the HKD 2.1 billion initiative is set to shift the local geography of Hong Kong’s burgeoning art scene and catalyze the final phases of the city’s transformation into an international art destination.
In addition to the 16 heritage buildings on the site, the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron has been chosen to design two additional buildings within the complex. The firm also happens to be the designer for the city’s other highly anticipated arts complex, M+, the future museum for visual culture. As it appears, the architectural firm won’t be the only resource the two institutions will share.
Berger will be ending his tenure prematurely as curator of visual art for M+. Multiple nonprofits had been vying for the reins of artistic directorship before CPS announced their intention to appoint an individual advisor. Short-listed applicants included Hong Kong Arts Centre, Arts in Heritage Research and a composite group made up of Asia Art Archive, Para Site, Ink Society Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Raised and educated in Germany, Berger has shared his scholarship and expertise in a number of roles throughout the Asia-Pacific over the last decade. Between 2003 and 2005, he was director of Artspace in Auckland, New Zealand. In 2005 he took up the position of managing director and curator at Hong Kong’s Para Site and over the following three and a half years he brought up the small, independent space into the international arena. Before arriving at M+, Berger was chief curator at South Korea’s Nam June Paik Art Center from early 2009 to mid-2010. In a press statement released just today, CPS lauded Berger’s rich experience in the Asia-Pacific art scene, having “curated or co-curated nearly 100 art events for art museums, art spaces and art biennials in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, Oceania and Europe.”
Berger will be working alongside Hong Kong-born Winnie Yeung Wing-yin, who has been appointed as head of heritage and will assume her post later this month. Yeung comes to the role with academic training in architectural conservation from the University of Hong Kong and substantial professional experience in heritage projects in both Hong Kong and Singapore.
Upon Berger’s departure from M+, its executive director Lars Nittve expressed his best wishes today while crediting the curator for a “huge and long-lasting contribution to the M+ project over the past four years.” Nittve continued, “We are of course sorry to see him leave but we also recognize that this is a wonderful opportunity [...] It is refreshing to see a vibrant ecosystem developing that allows creative and professional development within the sector.”
In an email to ArtAsiaPacific regarding his new appointment, Berger wrote that CPS “will establish a new major independent heritage and art institution in the heart of Hong Kong, providing an important new platform for art and cultural exchange.” He added that the new space will open up “opportunities for performances, lectures and moving image projects. The program will be presented in collaboration with other significant institutions. It will present a mix of smart, engaging and exciting exhibitions and events.”
With so many projects and sites in the making, Hong Kong is set to cement its status as a major arts hub in the Asia-Pacific region. Nittve echoes the sentiment and harbors high hopes for its future development: “This is an exciting time for the visual arts in Hong Kong and it is fair to say the eyes of the art world are fixed on the city.”