The story appears on

Page A8

January 15, 2012

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Art Palace 'magnet' in revamped Expo Park

THE Shanghai art map will be changing fast this year and the jewel in the crown is expected to be the vast China Art Palace in the China Pavilion, as Wang Jie reports.

Big changes are forecast for Shanghai's art map this year. The Shanghai Art Museum will move from its site near People's Square in the former racing club to the new China Art Palace in the 70,000-square-meter China Pavilion in the Pudong New Area, site of the World Expo 2010. Its new space will be 10 times that of the existing venue. The opening will be in October for the Shanghai Biennale.

China Art Palace will be part of the China Pavilion, with some other plans underway, including a cinema that screens animations and a possible permanent exhibition of artworks Shanghai style.

The Liu Haisu Art Museum in Hongiao area will relocate to a new complex on Kaiqiao Green Land on Yan'an Road W. probably in 2013. And the former World Expo's Urban Future Pavilion will be turned into the China Contemporary Art Museum late this year.

The new China Art Palace is expected by planners to eventually be on par with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

The China Pavilion was the global focus during the Shanghai World Expo and planners have been trying to develop a new use for it and the area in Pudong that many people consider remote.

The choice is initially challenged people who preferred the Shanghai Exhibition Center on Yan'an Road M. The spectacular 93,000-square-meter structure was built in classical Russian style and completed in 1955. It is designed and equipped for large-scale exhibitions, fairs and events.

They argued that the majestic red China Pavilion is too remote, the neighborhood is not welcoming and artistic and the task of converting the pavilion to a world-class museum will be staggering.

Hong Hao, former top organizer of the Shanghai World Expo said: "The China Art Palace (expected to showcase the origins and development of China's modern arts) will be a cultural and arts venue to impress the world and drive the development of China's art."

The opening exhibition will be the 2012 Shanghai Biennale, a half-year event tentatively scheduled for October 1, according to the Shanghai Art Museum. The biennale will have an exhibition space of 16,000 square meters, around two times the space of the Biennale in 2010. The theme will be " E-source/form/new/public."

Shi Dawei, chairman of the Shanghai Artists Association, initiated the idea of the China Art Palace and proposed it to the city government six years ago. He initially proposed the classical Shanghai Exhibition Center, which had been the venue for the first ShContemporary in 2007 and impressed visitors with its glamor.

"At that time, I was challenged by officials asking whether we had a sufficiently large collection, whether the management was effective and how we would make ends meet for this palace," Shi recalls.

Apparently those issues were resolved, though the issue of revenue could be tricky, and the municipal government decided that the priority was cultural and economic development of the former World Expo site.

"I still think the Shanghai Exhibition Center is a better choice for the art palace," says an industry insider who declined to be identified. "The question is what to do with the China Pavilion and some other pavilions," he says. "It cannot be a permanent tourist attraction without attractive contents."

The task of interior renovation and construction of a professional art museum is daunting.

"The China Pavilion was not built according to the standards of an art museum," says a staff member at the Shanghai Art Museum, asking not to be identified. "The lighting, the arrangement of exhibition space and the offices for administration are not very satisfactory. There will be a huge amount of work."

The expense of renovating a single pavilion exhibition hall for the 62-work Picasso exhibition was staggering, according to Xie Dingwei, organizer of the exhibition held for 85 days from last October to early January, who says the total figure was "incredible" but refuses to elaborate.

The Picasso exhibition required installation of equipment to maintain constant temperature and humidity costing several tens of thousands of yuan and that was only part of the cost to turn "one isolated area into a decent exhibition space," Xie says.

But Picasso's fame did not ensure good attendance. Nearly 300,000 people visited over three months, far lower than expectations.

"The name Picasso plus China Pavilion should have attracted more visitors," he says, attributing low turnout in part to the pavilion's remote location, less convenient than Puxi. The public's lack of knowledge about contemporary art is cited as another reason.

"I wanted to see the Picasso exhibition with my family, but the China Pavilion is not easy to get to," says Thomas Wu, a 37-year-old professional. "First, I can't drive since I don't know where I can park. There aren't many cabs in that neighborhood. If I take public transport, then I have to walk 10-20 minutes. Just think about the cold winter weather."

Wu says that he will miss the Shanghai Art Museum on bustling Nanjing Road W., the welcoming environment of People's Park and the ambience of the old race club, all making for a relaxing weekend afternoon.

But given time, the areas around the China Pavilion could be evolved into a more interesting, bustling and accessible place, since big-ticket commercial projects, including shopping streets, office buildings and luxury hotels, are now under construction.

And the China Pavilion site, too, has history - it used to be a power plant built in 1897.

"The China Art Palace is seven times bigger than the current Shanghai Art Museum and we never have enough space for big exhibitions or biennales," says Li Xiangyang, director of the Shanghai Oil Painting and Sculpture Institute and former director of the Shanghai Art Museum.

"I used to dream that one day we could have a bigger venue and not have to wrack our brains to squeeze every bit of space and utilize every corner to showcase art," he says.

Li Xu, vice director of the China Contemporary Art Museum, is also enthusiastic about the new art palace venue and the move for his own museum.

"Such big exhibition space is the dream of every museum," he says. "It's a pity that a big metropolis like Shanghai doesn't have a museum especially for contemporary art. Our new museum will be able to give a panoramic view of the art scene."

"Rome was not built in a day," says Christine Wu, a 34-year-old teacher. "To really establish the China Art Palace will require more than an exhibition space - it will require the improvement and invigoration of the whole neighborhood and convenient transport. Otherwise tourists and not art lovers will frequent the place."

Shi, chairman of the local artists association and a booster of the palace, says China needs more contemporary art education in schools and universities. He suggests regular art classes be held in the Art Palace.

"An art museum is not somewhere that one has been to," he says, "but a place that one frequents."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend