Cover Maria Mok at her Hong Kong Museum of Art office (Photo: Maria Mok)

As the Hong Kong Museum of Art celebrates its 60th anniversary, its director Maria Mok tells us what it’s like to prep for the major milestone—from creating art-inspired selfie filters for visitors, to lunch meetings where she manages to mix business with pleasure

Changes are happening at the Hong Kong Museum of Art as it celebrates its 60th birthday this year. Alongside a series of new exhibitions focused on historic Chinese art at the institution, which is the oldest art museum in the city, there’s also an emphasis on the appreciation of art in the digital age: visitors can now “walk” into an animated world of traditional Chinese landscape paintings, and take selfies with specially created Instagram filters inspired by the pieces on display.

Behind it all is Maria Mok, the museum’s director, who has been in the role since 2019. Here, she walks Tatler through a day in her life: from keeping herself in the know by browsing on social media, to why she thinks part of her job feels like “detective work”.

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9am

As a museum director, my work isn’t only about paperwork or meetings. Instead of curating exhibitions, I “curate” the entire institution, which means that I come up with unique and inspiring experiences for anyone who walks through our door. I oversee all curatorial proposals, and take care of the projects from their inception to its final completion interpretation and realisation inside the galleries.

We’re the most historic art museum in Hong Kong, but what we do is fun and on trend. Last December, our museum has developed Instagram filters—where users can decorate their heads with floral and bird crowns, paper fans and a phoenix that circles around their your heads. They are all inspired by exhibits that you can find in our museum. The filters have been very popular among art writers and gallerists, and I get my share of social media time—to interacting with fans of the museum and scrolling through feeds to get myself updated with what’s happening in the art and museum circles.

For the 60th anniversary, we also have a completely new façade. We invited multimedia artists to bring new, immersive experiences.

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10am

A normal workday is often made up of back-to-back meetings and other appointments such as events, talks, interviews—and of course, overseeing the exhibitions and collection-building. What people may not know about my work is that I am also in charge of venue management, security, cleaning, budgeting, branding and marketing.

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Noon

Like most art people, I enjoy food and respect chefs, whose work can be an art in itself. I do have a lot of business lunches: I would arrange them as often as possible at the museum restaurant [Hue Dining Room], which has a stunning view of the harbour. It also gives my guests the perfect excuse to stay and tour our exhibitions after.

3pm

Afternoons are great for checking in with on my curators at galleries. I admire and envy them at work—the professionals mounting of art objects is a craft, and a beautiful sight. I miss the days when I rolled up my sleeves, held precious art works in my hands and climbed up and down to adjust the lighting [that surrounded them].

6pm

I like to maintain a balanced lifestyle—especially because I enjoy good food—by doing indoor cycling and pilates. And as nerdy as it sounds, I research art and art history as a hobby.

I am one of those lucky souls who loves what they do for a living and does what they love for leisure. I spend my Saturdays in the office, reading and researching—while my colleagues on weekend shifts think that I am spying on them.

Research for me is like playing detective; it’s a game of unlocking historical secrets or debunking myths. Like museum visits, the experience, rather than the findings, is my best reward.

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