Thanks to the explosion of Chinese art collectors in the past decade, all eyes are turning east as the global contemporary art scene is being reshaped. One result has been a corresponding growth in art museums on the Chinese mainland to house these new collections. Whether this unprecedented art bubble is sustainable is anyone’s guess, but for the fan of contemporary art and architecture, there has never been a better time to visit China. We round up four of the newest art museums worthy of your attention.
Beijing Minsheng Art Museum
Year opened: 2015
Art focus: Contemporary art
Just north of the capital’s sprawling 798 Art District gallery cluster, the Beijing Minsheng Museum of Art took over a cavernous decommissioned electronics factory, reopening in 2015 after a stunning makeover by Chinese architecture firm Studio Pei Zhu. At 88,000 square feet, the structure is one of the largest private museums in China. Funded by China Minsheng Bank, which has also supported two art institutions in Shanghai, the museum has already hosted a raft of big ticket exhibitions, including a contemporary German photography exhibition focusing on the renowned Becher School in Düsseldorf, and a retrospective of Chinese artist Fang Lijun, famed for paintings of the same bald-headed man with various expressions.
Sifang Art Museum
Year opened: 2013
Art focus: Architecture, contemporary art
Positioned dramatically on a hillside in Laoshan National Park in western Nanjing, this private art museum is actually a scatter of diverse buildings, each individually designed by prominent architects and artists including Ai Weiwei, with several housing art collections, one a conference centre, and another a 65-room boutique hotel. A world away from the urbanised hubbub of Nanjing, one of China’s former ancient capitals, Sifang Art Museum is set within peaceful parkland that itself forms part of the art experience, with garden exhibits formed in the landscape. The singular centrepiece is a boxy gallery space protruding from the mountainside and seemingly suspended in mid-air, designed by American architect Steven Holl.
Location: Shekou, Shenzhen
Year opened: 2017
Art focus: Design
Housed in a Japanese-designed modernist structure unveiled in December 2017, Design Society represents a determined step in Shenzhen’s drive to evolve from coastal manufacturing megalopolis to design and innovation hub. Six floors and multiple galleries, workshops, design stores and educational spaces serve as a showcase for local and international design, given serious standing by its partnership with London’s V&A museum, probably the most famous design institution in the world. Lasting until 2020, the partnership is the largest ever undertaken by the V&A, and will showcase 250 objects from the permanent collection in London, many of them Chinese, to tell a narrative of how design represents a two-way flow of ideas and cultural collaboration. Other galleries include a sprawling exhibit on digital design based on a collaboration with the Netherlands.
Power Station of Art
Year opened: 2012
Art focus: Contemporary art
Fans of London’s Tate Modern will immediately spot the similarities with Shanghai’s Power Station of Art, a huge riverside box crested with a 165-metre chimney. Home to the Shanghai Biennale, the Power Station of Art started life as the Nanshi Power Station three decades ago, before becoming the Pavilion of the Future at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. In 2012 it became China’s first state-owned contemporary art museum, with six floors of exhibition space, although it is rarely all used at once. Since its inception, the Power Station of Art has hosted a hugely successful Andy Warhol retrospective, as well as visiting exhibitions from the Centre Pompidou in Paris. A rooftop deck offers stunning views of a great sweep of the Huangpu River scything through Shanghai.