Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Some of My Thoughts on Museums

In terms of the main functions of museums, I think that a museum should be a place in the service of society and of its development; it should open to the public, which conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purpose of study, education and enjoyment. Museums exhibit to provide the objects and information necessary for visitors to learn and also enable them to have an enjoyable experience.

In the early period of its development, museums focused on researches, collection and exhibits, but museums are now experiencing the transition from traditional function to social function, and the idea of museums should serve the society is strengthened. Because of the museum’s unique cultural value, abundant educational and cultural information and special education method, museums take the mission to spread scientific knowledge, patriotism education, and aesthetic education.

Museums can be considered as complementary classrooms for students, meanwhile, they also offer opportunities for people from all walks of life to expand their scope of knowledge.

Education and entertainment can be combined together to enable visitors to attain the satisfaction of cultural life. The educating means can be diversified, varying from all kinds of exhibitions to performances, lectures and academic forums.

Last week we visited MOCA, Shanghai Art Museum and Zendai Museum of Modern Art. Generally speaking, the state-owned museums are bigger than privately-owned ones. Both of them hold forums and lectures, but I think that state-owned museums enjoy some advantages. For example, the latest information of the coming show can be publicized through mass media such as TV and radio, but we seldomly hear about exhibitions in privately-owned ones. Before I took this class, I knew little about private-owned museums in Shanghai. I asked some of my Shanghainese classmates about Zendai Museum, but none of them was familiar with it, so I think there are still a lot to do to expand the public participation.

As the first non-profit, independently-operated contemporary art institution in Shanghai, MOCA is devoted to the promotion of Chinese and international contemporary art. It aims to bring to China high quality international contemporary art and design and to collect and research on Chinese contemporary art and design. Evolving Legend, the Ferragamo show inspires visitors’ creativity by showcasing the innovative materials, creative use of color and fine craftsmanship that make each Ferragamo product a work of art, those elements can also be borrowed into the creation of contemporary art. This reminds me of one of the functions of museums, that is to inspire creativity and contribute to the support of creative industries.

Art is not only an important component of our society and life and an important means of intercultural communication, but also a way of learning and understanding the world around us. Museums are not only the places to display antiques, they should also be able to reflect modernity in China. As one of the most dynamic metropolis in the world, Shanghai has undergone significant changes in recent years. Cultural prosperity has offered museums in Shanghai the opportunity of development and transformation.

In Shanghai Art Museum, I saw the photograph exhibition which shows the current development of Shanghai. Also, Shanghai Biennale takes the city itself and its urban conditions as a starting point for its artistic exploration. The forum in Zendai Art Museum focusing on the current and future directions possible for China’s culture deals with a wide range of issues all pertinent to a broad understanding of Chinese cultural development. Through discussing some main issues about future development of contemporary art, and the role of art in culture, we are able to place China’s cultural progress in the context of its reemergence into the world. Wang Jianwei’s Hostage reminds me that in such a society with rapid scientific development, people are enjoying the comforts brought by material life, however, we are gradually falling into victims of material life even if we haven’t realized that. Although it is strange-looking, the installation art inspires visitors to rethink on current living state. So, art is a reflection of the outside world, a reflection of the globalized reordering of the city.

In February2008, the national department of cultural antiques announced that some of the museums should open to public free of charge. This will create more opportunities for people to go to museums to experience the spiritual education, especially young people. Without any entry fees, museums can be less of corporate spaces, however, it is not impossible to open all the museums to public free. Museums should charge fees according to the quality and standards of the exhibition on display so as to protect the exhibits.

Today, there are millions of bloggers, in order to make better use of the internet, museums representing arts and culture in China can also use blog as a tool. Pictures and videos of some exhibitions that were no longer on display can be put on the blog so that people can review those exhibitions at any time. People can also make any comments on the blog. In this way, blogs can become internet-based virtual museums.

In terms of future development of museums, I think more forums and lectures should be held for visitors of all levels, more opportunities can be offered for art audience to have face-to face conversations with artists.

Museums in Shanghai should open a window for audience, both from home and abroad, to experience the tremendous changes Shanghai is undergoing, and inspire people to think what we everyone can do to further the development of this city.

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