Sunday, February 16, 2014

Private Museum

Private Museums : flavor of the month

Private museums in the mainland seem to have been the craze over the past year, with one springing up every few months across the country's leading cities.

Indeed, in 2009, culture was elevated by the State Council to the status of a strategic industry, with a five-year plan starting from 2011 that dictates culture as the "spirit and soul of the nation," a core industry constituting 5 percent of GDP.

But one has to remember this trend is a new one, relative to the cultural history in Europe and the Americas, with the likes of Tate, Rockefeller and Guggenheim household names for any traveler.
In Beijing, there is now the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, set up by collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens; in Shanghai, Yuz, by Chinese-Indonesian agriculture magnate Budi Tek; and The Long Museum by power collector couple Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei.

In Nanjing, there is the recent news topper Sifang Art Museum, part of a much larger project by real estate developer Lu Jun and his son Lu Xun; and in Xian, OCAT, the first major contemporary art museum in the western part of the city.

These are only a tiny fraction of the ongoing private museum building activity. Whether they are merely vanity projects, depositories, or hold a more coherent vision to benefit the public, there still remains a lot of software problems that require time and knowledge to address.

Another problem is finding the professional teams to manage and curate the museums up to world-class standards; ensuring sustainability in terms of collections, as well as how the map of China fits in with the world - how to create cross-cultural dialogues; and the implementation of successful educational programs that aim to nurture a truly cultural and passionate next generation.

Only time will tell whether this boom will be long-lasting, and the fundamental effects of private art museums felt.   --    Hong Kong Standard

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