This was my first year not attending the art fair in Hong Kong and I really regretted it for the first day or two; reading up on all the exhibitions openings, events, and various parties made me feel like I was really missing out. But after hearing from friends about the crowds and the constant rain, I had to pat myself on the back for my wise decision. You can read up on what was what in Hong Kong here. Besides, I had already experienced the insanity of attending a fair with a baby back in March during the Armory Show. I was crazy to think I could navigate preview night with a stroller. Not too smart. I still managed to write a coherent report on it though; you can read my thoughts on the Armory Show at Randian.
The big news in Shanghai is the glut of museums springing up everywhere. I’ve written about the museum problem in China before so I guess it’s not really “news”. But the rest of the world seems to think that this is a new day for Shanghai. So many new museums! Collectors making their make on the city! Shanghai finally has world class spaces for world class art! I think we all need to just simmer down. All these new spaces doesn’t equal a first rate art scene… yet. It is impressive just how many museums have opened in the past five years: the Minsheng Art Museum (2009), the Rockbund Art Museum (2010), the Long Museum Pudong (2012), the Aurora Museum (2012). And now we have another Long Museum and the Yuz Museum. In addition to these private museums, there’s also the Power Station of Art and the China Art Museum (both 2012), though they aren’t technically “new” since they are off shoots of the old Shanghai Art Museum. Can there really be that much art to fill all these spaces? We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, here’s my take on the newest additions.
Their first exhibition, Review, is really just works moved from their other museum in Pudong. There are a few notable newcomers to their collection of Chinese contemporary art, like a large Xu Bing piece (Art for the People) and a few Gu Wenda scrolls. But otherwise, it’s the same old, same old. As with their other museum, there was little thought put into categorizing the works that made sense. What explanations and signage there was mostly disappeared into the wall since they thought it was a brilliant idea to use grey lettering… that just blended with the grey walls. Truly, this first show was a lost opportunity. There was nothing here that hasn’t been seen to death already, and shown in such a pedestrian way at that. The lower levels, dedicated to modern and calligraphy art, is just a dizzying array of works. After a while, they just lose their significance.
Then we have the Yuz Museum, which houses the Yuz Collection from Indonesian-Chinese collector Budi Tek. I feel like they’ve been announcing the opening of this museum since the Stone Age. Its location has changed a few times as well and they ultimately chose the West Bund area, probably because the government gave them a sweet deal on the land. Wang Wei has said in the past that’s why she decided to open a second museum; the government gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse. Smart move on the government’s part. The West bund area is poised to be a hotspot, with its ideal location on the river, a nicely developed waterfront and several high end apartment complexes already built. My husband and I have been coming to this area for a few years now because it was a great place to train for races; we could run for miles without hitting traffic and also be by the water (although the river was a lot smellier then). These museums are an ideal way to entice businesses and restaurants to set up shop. As of now, it is still very much empty and devoid of life, save for the families that hang out on the waterfront on nice days.
Tune in next week as I explore shopping malls of art and my run down on summer shows.