Visitors to the newly built Hong Kong Palace Museum at the city’s art hub in West Kowloon could pay anywhere from HK$50 to HK$120 (RM28 to RM68) for an entry ticket, with the venue expected to open on July 2.
The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority recently revealed the museum would open on July 2 as a key part of celebrations to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule.
The announcement came as a top official from the district also spoke about the arts hub’s dire financial situation, with the authority under pressure to seek further funding from the government after receiving an endowment of HK$21.6bil (RM12bil) in 2008.
Anyone looking to visit the museum can book their tickets online from June 14, with purchases also possible on other platforms such as Klook, China Travel and Alibaba’s tour services provider Fliggy.
The walk-in purchase of tickets will not be allowed.
Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee, the district authority’s chief executive, said the entrance fees were affordable and 150,000 tickets, or 10 per cent of those set to be issued in the first year of the venue’s launch, would be given away to underprivileged residents.
“While the tickets will help the income of the museum, we will sort out its long-term financial viability,” she said.
Fung said the museum had already managed to cover about half of its expenditure for the period between 2023 and 2025 through ticketing sales and corporate sponsorship.
She also revealed the overall financial status of the West Kowloon Cultural District development had taken a worrying turn due to the delayed completion of commercial and hotel buildings, which had affected the potential income from such projects. Fung added that the Covid-19 pandemic had also contributed to the problem.
“Our financial status is very dire and we are doing whatever we can to improve the situation,” she said.
The district authority is expected to provide further details on its financial health during a Legislative Council panel next Monday.
Louis Ng Chi-wa, the director of the Hong Kong Palace Museum, meanwhile, agreed the ticket prices were not expensive, comparing them to entrance fees for world-renowned locations such as the HK$70 (RM39) admission cost for the Beijing’s Palace Museum and the HK$125 (RM70) charge to visit the Louvre Museum in Paris.
“Visitors’ experience will be worth more than HK$120 (RM68),” he said.
The ticket prices are comparable with the entrance fees of HK$120 (RM68) for adults and HK$60 (RM34) for concessions at the M+ Museum, a modern art museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District that was opened in November last year.
The Hong Kong Palace Museum will initially accommodate only 5,000 people per day in the first month of opening to ensure compliance with the city’s coronavirus curbs.
The limit was also imposed to ensure people visited the site after making a booking, with the newly opened M+ previously reporting that 30 per cent of those who bought tickets had not shown up.
The number of people able to be admitted to the Hong Kong Palace Museum on a daily basis will be increased to 7,000 after the first month.
Admission to the Hong Kong Palace Museum will be free on Wednesdays for the first year, with the venue closing on Tuesdays in alignment with the policy for M+.
Residents have said they are still waiting to see what the museum has to offer, with some planning to take advantage of the venue’s free entry days.
“If I was going by myself, then, of course, I would go on the days where I do not need to pay,” said Willy Yan, a retiree in his 60s.
But Yan said he would consider paying for a ticket if he was visiting the museum with his family or friends, adding he would check feedback from other visitors before making a final decision.
Winnie Lee, a 21-year-old university student, also said she would opt to visit the venue on a free entry day.
“If there was no special reason and I was just going to have a look, I wouldn’t want to pay so much money,” Lee said.
Very little information revealed about the Palace Museum had piqued her interest, she said, with the student preferring M+.
“I have yet to see anything that would make it worth the HK$50 (RM28) entry fee,” she said.
The museum is already in the advanced preparation stages for one of its exhibitions, with 941 Chinese antiques and art pieces shipped to Hong Kong on Sunday as a loan from its counterpart in Beijing, which is located in the Forbidden City.
The selection came from more than 1.86 million works in the Beijing collection, including 166 “grade one” items classified as “national treasures”.
The unprecedented loan is also among the largest and finest the Beijing museum has ever provided to another cultural institution outside mainland China since its establishment some 97 years ago, a Hong Kong Palace Museum spokesman said.
The antiques include paintings, calligraphy, bronzes, ceramics, jades, metalwork, enamelware, lacquers, seals, costumes and textiles, jewellery, rare books and architecture. They will be shown in nine galleries at the venue for about a year.
It remains unknown if Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong to oversee the inauguration of the city’s next administration on July 1, or if he would also officiate the opening of the museum.
Funded by a HK$3.5bil (RM1.9bil) donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the new attraction is a collaboration between the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the Palace Museum in Beijing. It took about three years to complete.
The Hong Kong Palace Museum and M+ are the main attractions of the 40ha, multibillion-dollar West Kowloon Cultural District development, designed as a world-class arts hub. - South China Morning Post/Asia News Network