Monday, October 30, 2006

Doland, One Step Forward

Curvy and serene, Duolun Road exudes a memorable cuteness as it elusively hides in between large buildings and wide roads. Strategically placed at the center, surrounded by a public park, a stadium, a commercial area, and bustling city highways and railways, Duolun Road completes the urban design of this surrounding area with intricate contemporary perfection. Walking on Duolun Road, I return to a similar district I visited only a short while ago: Moganshan Road. Comparable to Moganshan road, Duolun Road also hides itself amongst the bustle of city life and urban architecture.

7 floors tall, Doland Museum of Modern Art stands huddled together with a combination of small buildings lined on both sides of the road. Like the central jewel embellished with smaller adornments, Doland MOMA attracts the attention of tourists and locals with its solitary beauty. In comparison, the single presence of Doland as a representative of contemporary aesthetics surrounded by city urban architecture and infrastructure on Duolun Road contrasts with the small gathering of art galleries in an abandoned industrial corner of Shanghai. While Doland emanates distinction and favor as a significant achievement of the Shanghai government to support and propel Chinese contemporary art to an international level, it segregates itself from other proponents of contemporary art in Shanghai. Unlike other museums in Shanghai that host exhibitions to encourage appreciation and interest in contemporary art, to develop strong relationships between the Chinese and foreign art communities, and to pave way for the aesthetic and intellectual creativity of future generations, Doland conveys an intense political agenda to accompany the encouragement of contemporary art. Although a political agenda does not prevent the growth of contemporary art, Doland does prevent itself from completely accepting, exchanging, and experiencing contemporary art, unlike the MOMA or MOCA.

Upon first glance, Doland MOMA looks like a rectangular brick standing tall among the jagged houses that surround it. From a distance, the Doland MOMA shines a smooth layer of gray with a small section at the top of the building made of bright red steel and transparent glass. As we close in, the structured and quadrangle pattern compose and construct the Doland. The entrance is designed with the combination of black and red and only the black and red letters spelling Doland Shanghai Museum of Modern Art and a red street light compliment the connecting red and black design of the entrance. Simplicity is beauty, and Doland MOMA accentuates this exquisite aesthetic simplicity with its architectural sincerity. I favor the design of Doland over such other museums such as the Shanghai MOMA, the MOCA, and Zendai. The MOMA and MOCA are buildings refurbished and converted into modern art museums from their original architectural designs and purposes and this wanes their aesthetic and cultural objective. And although arguably MOCA and Zendai, with their attractive glass structure, I believe that art is not transparent, and the buildings should not illustrate this. Contemporary art is simple yet complex, a fusion of experience and imagination. It tries to portray truth through beauty and beauty within truth. The glass design of MOCA and Zendai do not convey the sense of this complex simplicity as well as Doland. From the architectural design of Doland’s combination of gray, red, black, and glass, the conveyance of contemporary art is much stronger. Doland’s gray tiles represent the intricate and complex composition of the materials to create the artwork. As we have seen, many contemporary artworks have a finalized product that we perceive to be a simple and candid reflection of life and truth; the earnest colors composing Doland’s structure accentuate these characteristics of contemporary art in its architecture.

In terms of the exterior architectural design, the entrance made from a combination of red and black epitomizes a multitude of meaning. It is this complex simplicity that I felt most impressed with. At first glance, one will only see the contrast between red and black; nothing special. However, after contemplation and examination, the basic design of the entrance symbolizes the cultural reference to Chinese cosmological belief. The strong belief that everything in this world is made of yin and yang, of a balance and integration of light and darkness symbolizes the inclusive and integrative nature of contemporary art. Like yin and yang, modern art is a representation between the balances of existential aspects in and around humanity that search and define truth. Also through the illustration of a modern cosmological reference, the museum seeks to indicate the cultural aspect.

The spacious interior of the Doland MOMA has a construction area of 4800 square meters, of which 1500 square meters (the first 3 floors) are used for art exhibitions. The black ceiling and white walls also support the principle of yin and yang and the brown wooden floor solidifies our relationship with nature as a unified entity. Each floor has sufficient exhibition space for artworks small and large. The two video rooms provide the space necessary for motion picture art. Overall the interior design of Doland has put into consideration the flexibility, modernity, and creativity of contemporary art. The circular stairways that lead to the floor above inject the audience with a sense of blissful search for enlightenment. By climbing the circular stairway, one feels as if it is a trial in search for the experiences in life. Instead of progressing in a diagonally linear movement but circling directly upwards, one feels as if the pursuit of truth is an ordeal that requires patience and determination as there will be moments of redundancy challenging one’s faith and intellect.

In terms of architectural design, Doland proudly exhibits many merits that place it at the forefront of Shanghai modern art and culture. It is the fruit of the effort, experience, and desire of the Chinese people to modernize and integrate themselves into the modern art world and exchange culture and individuality with the rest of the world for mutual progression. The one aspect that could be improved upon is the interaction and interconnection between the interior of Doland and the exterior environment. Doland’s walls completely seal and separate the interior with the exterior world. If instead of using concrete material to create the walls the designers used glass that is transparent from the inside but not observable from the outside, it would give contemporary art and the museum a mystic aura and allure audience in. Once inside, the audience may see and interpret the paintings as well as witness the world outside, which would symbolize an interpretative fusion of modern art and life: an experience of truth.

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