Soft opening for Yuz Museum in Shanghai
The Chinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek reveals his new space, but first exhibition to be held in May
By Lisa Movius. Web only
Published online: 09 January 2014
Under a cold Shanghai mizzle, the Chinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek threw open the doors of his new Yuz Museum to curious art crowds on 7 January. The inauguration just launched the new building and a formal opening will follow in May, with a show of Shanghai contemporary art curated by the University of Chicago professor Wu Hung. “The challenge is still ahead,” Tek says. “The building is not important: the exhibition, the software, the people who still need to be trained, are the challenges we face in the years and months ahead.”
The museum’s 3,000 sq. m main hall, converted from old aircraft hangars by Sou Fujimoto Architects to accommodate the mostly large-scale installation works of Chinese contemporary art that will be the core of the collection, stood cavernous and clean. The wreaths and reception desk seemed tiny and toy-like, as guests filed into the adjacent glass enclosed reception area or up to a second floor screening room showing a celebratory video, where Shanghai’s top artists and curators rubbed elbows with visitors from Beijing and Hong Kong. In May, for its grand opening, the museum, “will bring hundreds of international guests in,” Tek says.
Of the opening show, “I don’t have any say, it is done by the curator, who will select from the whole of the collection,” Tek says. “We are very careful to collect and exhibit the best works considered historical to Chinese contemporary art,” mapping its progression. Tek has focused on collecting what he calls “mega works” of the large installation pieces that most private buyers shy away from because of their sheer size.
Just as Yuz Jakarta has introduced Chinese contemporary art to Indonesia, Tek anticipates that Yuz Shanghai will include Indonesian art, which he has promoted through things like the national pavilion at the Venice Biennale. However, “I am not the curator, and I cannot force them to include works based on nationality. Contemporary art is contemporary art, only in this region do they want to differentiate.”
Tek’s emphasis on curatorial and operational autonomy is unusual among Chinese private museum owners. “I will be the foundation chair, but not involved in the daily operations of the museum,” he says. However, “it is not 100% an international system” Tek says, since the infrastructure for museums is still not completely available. “I need to cultivate that before I can be hands off.”
The terrain, though, is changing fast. “There is a movement of museums that is taking place [in Shanghai], changing everyone, and it has changed me,” Tek says. “China now is different, it is really friendly to cultural set ups, and they know museums are important for soft power.” While state museums focus on antiquities, private museums are developing contemporary art, which, “the government sees as a lifestyle thing as well, the art of contemporary society. It is good for people as a whole, and can easily communicate with the outside world.”
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