Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Space and function of the art museum

The first idea occurred to me why Shanghai is now attracting more and more eyes from artists all over the world is because that the area itself is relatively a new growing market for contemporary art, that means ,like everything new ,it is full of possibilities to make it a totally specific landmark in art . Shanghai itself bears some special characteristics, favorable geographic location, solid economic support , history of colony and influence by the Chinese cultures as well. Shanghai itself is a mixture of various elements existing not only in China but the whole world as well. To such a newly built kingdom , we are not just curious about its future ,but hope to participate in the construction of its parts, which cater to our needs.

Most the museums in Shanghai exist for only several decades. Specially mentioning, Shanghai Art Museum (1956) was the earliest national art museum in China, which may suggest that Shanghai should have the capacity or more experiences to hold more museums. But compared to Beijing , Guangzhou and other areas in China, we can not find much that can really represent the contemporary art development in Shanghai. Personally speaking, I think the Shanghai Biennale should be a best channel for the rest of the world to know more about what is taking place here, winning public praise home and abroad. Still we can not deny the fact that many shows that we held are not as satisfying as what we are expecting. I think that the concept of space is the most important factor that contributes to any success.

First, building area . A good art museum should have large space that ensures to hold all the items on display. To best present the items , the space plays an essential role in creating the background or atmosphere and won’t miss any important element relevant. Unlike the newly-built art museums in other areas and those under construction with sufficient space, the Shanghai Art Museum covers an area of 18,000 square meters, of which only 5,800 square meters is used as exhibition area. Same situation goes with another municipal art museum------Liu Hai Su Museum, which has just 1000 square meters for exhibition. This can explain why some of us feel there is not too much worth-seeing in these art museums. To make it worse, it leads us to believe that art museum is just a work done by the government to improve the city image rather than a place can provide us with pleasure and inspire us to think. What I argue is not that a small gallery can not have well-known show , but that the lack of space will be a bottleneck for art development. Although I agree that various small galleries can serve for different art themes, I still believe we need more large art museums. That’s why I strongly support the idea that reconstructing those old factories. In addition to Moganshan area, individually , I would like to mention the 1933 old millfun, where Shanghai Creative Industry Center is located .It is not a so-called museum but the whole design and the idea it creates is what I hope to see in the future museums.

Second, the inner and outer space of the museum . Art museum is aimed at attracting more people to know about art and popularizing the contemporary art. It is important to fully use of the inner and outer space of the museum. We usually find art museums around commercial areas. It is hard to say it is the business zone flourishes the museum or the museum brings more visitors to the area. Having visited certain numbers of art museums, I think the location of Zendai MOMA is the most enjoyable. As the semi-community semi-commerce zone becomes more and more popular in Shanghai, it will be a good choice to build it there. Most of us may agree that the operation of an art museum needs popularity and financial support. It is important to make it not only a preference to the public but also to companies, even it is a non-profit museum. As the first non-profit, independent-operated contemporary institution in Shanghai, MOCA has achieved a lot and paid attention to the relations among pure art, design ,fashion, architecture and other fields. But no matter how popular the exhibition held there, MOCA still has to struggle with “money”. The high rent, payment for hundred employers and the expenditure for each exhibition all come from the foundation of its creator. Fortunately, it never limits to the narrow view and looks for sponsor to make it more successful. The exhibition titled “Art in Motion”, cooperating with BMW is a good example. For inner spaces, giving the museum more function also sounds goods. As I mentioned above, the city itself is mixture of various elements, so why not the museum? Leisure zones, small bars or even chatting corners do bring more vitality. But the multifunction of the museum is not easy to carry out because any abuse of it will lead to a david’s dear . We need more space for appreciation , for thinking but not just for fun. Some people often criticize that our city has no distinctive feature. I think this also applies to the museum construction. It will be a catastrophe if we make a museum a space that just assembles all other functional areas together without the art concept running through it.

So, in a word, I think that we need more art museums in Shanghai, bigger and multifunctional.

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