China’s largest private art museum opens on Shanghai’s West Bund

Shanghai welcomes the Long Museum, China’s largest private museum, as the city’s West Bund district expands its art footprint.

The Long Museum, co-founded by husband and wife collectors Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei, opened the doors of its second branch on 28 March 2014. The Shanghai space, which houses both contemporary and classical works, is China’s largest private museum at 33,000 square metres, and goes some way to consolidating Shanghai’s art city credentials.

China's largest private art museum, the Long Museum, opened its doors on Shanghai's West Bund in March 2014.

China’s largest private art museum, the Long Museum, opened its doors on Shanghai’s West Bund in March 2014.

The Shanghai branch of the Long Museum, located in the Puxi district of Shanghai’s riverfront, has 16,000 square feet of exhibition space and will showcase contemporary and classical works in four exhibitions per year.

Compared to the original Pudong branch of the museum, founded in 2012, the Shanghai space will be “more international and more focused on the future and possibilities,” co-founder Wang Wei explained to the Art Newspaper. The first two floors of the museum are dedicated to contemporary Chinese art, including works by the likes of Xu Zhen and Liu Wei.

Shanghai expands its art credentials

Long Museum West Bund joins several recent art ventures in Shanghai’s riverside area, including fellow collector Budi Tek’s new Yuz Museum and the more established Rockbund Art Museum, as well as the West Bund Biennial of Architecture and Contemporary Art. The area also houses more unusual initiatives like the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, which offers artist residencies alongside luxury hotel services.

Beyond the Bund area, Shanghai has initiated various projects to encourage growth in the city’s commercial art scene. In September 2013, Christie’s held its first Chinese auction in the city, and a few days later the Shanghai free trade zone opened for business, a move designed to encourage art business and trade.

Shanghai's West Bund by night. Image courtesy Christie's.

The view from Shanghai’s West Bund, across to Pudong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Super-collectors of Chinese art

Long Museum co-founders Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian, two of China’s wealthiest people, are a husband and wife team from working class backgrounds who stepped into China’s booming art scene two decades ago as collectors. In the intervening twenty years they have become two of China’s biggest art collectors, according to the BBC. The opening of the Long Museum West Bund marks the completion of an ongoing plan to establish spaces to house their entire collection.

Claire Jacobson, author of New Museums in China, told The Star Online that the husband and wife collectors may be keen to make their mark on Chinese art history through the Long Museum West Bund:

Like the Gettys and the Guggenheims and the Whitneys… there’s a long history of museums in the West, and maybe now in China, of collectors wanting to make a name for themselves and make a mark on history.

Long Museum’s first exhibition: what’s on show?

The new Long Museum’s inaugural exhibition, “Re-view” (pdf download), curated by Wang Huangsheng, juxtaposes some 300 works from Wang and Liu’s collection by 200 artists from different eras. The exhibition spans from classical to contemporary. According to the exhibition press release, the starting point of the show is “to create, explore, and experiment at the very present times, as we shall relate to, converse with, challenge, and surpass history.”

Controversy mars Long Museum opening

The opening of the West Bund museum was not without problems, as Reuters reported. The authenticity of a Song Dynasty calligraphy scroll included in “Re-view”, which Liu bought in September 2013 for USD 8.2 million at Sotheby’s New York has been called into question. Three researchers from Shanghai made the allegation of inauthenticity, but Liu has rebuffed their claims, saying to Chinese state media that “this is a good thing, debate on the authenticity of Gong Fu Tie helps restore historical truth,” as quoted in The Star Online.

Cassandra Naji


Related Topics: museums, Chinese art, museum collections, ink art, classic/contemporary, venues in Shanghai

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