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Museum Boom in China

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China’s drive to ashieve world status in more than just economic power has now turned to art museums, a push that is also resulting in the showing of more Chinese art in the United States, according to New York Times.

In Shanghai, the city government recently approved to a museum of contemporary art to be called the art palace – actually an expansion of the China Pavilion of the 2010 World Expo – that will bring the space to some 2.1 million square feet. The project will be the largest art museum in China and among the largest in the world when it opens on October 1st.

The National Museum of China in Beijing do not want to be outdone so they are planning a new museum next to the “Birdnest”, the National Olympic Stadium and the final architects to be choosen are either Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid or Jean Nouvel.

 

The boom in museum construction, which some Chinese art experts liken to the expansion of museums in the U.S. at the end of the 19th Century, has much to do with national pride. It comes under the full support of the national government as part of the cultural strategy known as “Going out, Inviting In” under which the governmentis giving the blessing to museums to exchange shows of Chinese art to Western countries and have Western art at their museums.

Thus the collaboration between the Shanghai Art Museum and Asia Society in New York is behind a show of 54 ink-on-paper works by Wu Guanzhong that opens in NY this week. A Chinese artist who trained in Paris after WW2, Wu then turned to using ancient techniques of brush and ink on a large scale and in a contemporary manner. Wu died in June 2010 at 90. Wu’s art appeal to Chinese collectors partly because in contrast to some of the high-selling avant-garde artists who went to the West after the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution and adapted western trends, Wu returned to Chinese tradition.

Last year 395 museums were built across China, according to Chen Jianming, vice chairman of Chinese Society of Museums. Many of these museums were devoted to history, but many more art museums are planned. As the number of art museums grows, Chinese curators are increasingly eager to show their art in the United States.

For the Western point of view, the 20th century is Western art and the art of Modernism, but it may not be fair because in these days when Western scholars discuss modernity, they should also discuss Chinese modernity, according to Mr. Chen.

Daniel Brostrom