Bernard Chan

Chairman, Palace Museum Hong Kong


West Kowloon board member Bernard Chan has taken the top job at the Hong Kong Palace Museum, set to open in July 2022 and celebrate national treasures and cultural artefacts

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Bernard Chan wears many hats: president of Asia Financial Holdings, a board member of West Kowloon, chairman of Asia Insurance, and a member of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service. His latest mission is to oversee the setting up and opening of the Hong Kong Palace Museum in July 2022.

The West Kowloon branch will be the third Palace Museum in the world. As well as national treasures, it will showcase world artefacts; potential partners include museums in France, Italy and Liechtenstein. On opening, there will be nine galleries, and pieces on display will include some of the 900 artefacts borrowed from the Palace Museum in Beijing. This is the first time since the Beijing Palace Museum was established in 1925 that it has loaned so many pieces outside of mainland China.

Chan admits he was intimidated by the job offer at first. But years of working in various art, cultural and even financial and political sectors have equipped him with the skills he needs for managing projects.

Leading the Palace Museum project requires more than just being an expert in Chinese art. It means leading a team to bring to life a vision of making ancient Chinese art and artefacts relevant to contemporary times and to people who may not be familiar with them. “Hong Kong has been designated as the cultural exchange between the East and West, and that’s what my team wants to achieve as well. The Hong Kong Palace Museum isn’t another museum branch but an independent museum that features both Chinese culture and other civilisations. And we’re going to tell the story of the artifacts with the use of technology,” he says.

Chan is also leading the Hong Kong Chronicles Institute, a digital archive project run by the think tank called Our Hong Kong Foundation, to publish detailed accounts of Hong Kong’s 7,000 years of history. The first volume in Chinese was published last year, and the digital English version will be available next year.

(Photo: Affa Chan)

There’s never an easy way to strike a balance between culture, preservation and development, or welfare and business – a lot of the difficult positions and tasks the government appoints me to. But my greatest achievement lies in learning how to find a common purpose, even with with opposing views, to work together and find compromise. 


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Did You Know?

Bernard Chan is a dot painter. In 1998, the year the first Legislative Council election took place, the studio art graduate was tasked with coming up with a logo for the council. The Madam President said to him, “You’re the only member with an art degree.” Chan was hesitant, since design and painting are two different fields. “But Madam President said to me, ‘You don’t have to be the one to design it. But we want you to be in charge of this project. It’s not an easy task, because you have to get all 59 members to come to an agreement,’” Chan recalls. “That actually was my lesson number one: how to combine art and politics together. At the end of the day, it’s not about finding a great, divine design. It’s how to get everyone to agree on one thing, especially when it comes to a difficult design.” The design he and the members chose is still the one now used by Legco.

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