Museums China

Yuz Museum Shanghai's opening show impresses in scale and ambition

Singapore wants the collector Budi Tek to open third museum

Adel Abdessemed’s twisted plane, Telle mère tel fils, in the museum

“Myth/History”, the inaugural show of the Chinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek’s much anticipated Yuz Museum Shanghai, opened to general acclaim this weekend. “After two years of being busy and struggling, we have eventually found a way,” says Tek about the opening of his vast, 9,000 sq. m museum in Shanghai's West Bund Cultural Corridor.

The museum's founder tells us that he intends the museum to “be a kind of a platform to meet East and West: our own slogan, clearly stated, is to ‘draw the world’s attention to Shanghai’.”

“Myth/History” is organised by the curator Wu Hung, who is a professor at the University of Chicago. The exhibition fills Yuz’s 3,000 sq. m main hall, converted from an old airport hangar, with 12 massive installation pieces, including Xu Bing’s Tobacco Project, Huang Yongping’s Tower Snake, and Adel Abdessemed’s Telle mère tel fils.

It is not a static show. A cleaning woman tirelessly vacuums water seeping from Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Freedom, a large metal, windowed chamber partially filled with muddy water, which spurted violently around at intervals to unsettling effect. Similarly disquieting is the breathing metal ribs and fluttering leaves of Choe U-Ram’s Custos Cavum, or the gently undulating rubble of MadeIn Company’s Calm, while Yang Zhenzhong’s Massage Chairs clatter more merrily. The flanking 6,000 sq. m of smaller halls, over two floors, contain paintings, photography and sculpture integral to the evolution of Chinese contemporary art.

“Even the curators say that it is not easy to see such an exhibition, on a scale usually only seen at biennales, or Documenta. It is a big accomplishment for China, the first very clear objective of an art museum,” Tek says.

The inaugural exhibition is due to close on 18 November and subsequent shows are still being planned. “Now we are meeting, the academic committee, and charting the future roadmap,” Tek says. “We are always going to exhibit worldwide contemporary art, with Chinese art, and Chinese contemporary art, as our core. But we will also do a lot of Western shows in the future.”

The museum’s management structure seems somewhat nebulous at the moment and the founder's ideas are not fully formed. “As a private museum we don’t want to lose the colour of Budi Tek, but it needs professional management. It is kind of a foreseeable conflict, involving setting up… in a way that is acceptable to each other,” Tek says.

The Shanghai Yuz Museum is in the fast growing Xuhui Riverside district of cultural industry. The museum complements Tek's Yuz Museum Jakarta. The collector confirms that he has been invited to open a third museum in Singapore but he says: “There are no plans for a museum in Singapore,” adding, “Let’s see, after Shanghai opens. We need a few years of Shanghai running well before considering additional museums in Singapore, or elsewhere.”

His first museum in China, the 9,000 sq. m institution forms the latest chapter in Shanghai's remarkable museum building boom, which can be compared to New York in the late 19th and early 20th century. Last month the Chinese collector Qiao Zhibing announced he planned to convert oil tanks in West Bund into spaces for his art. In March, the Long Museum West Bund opened.

The new Yuz Museum is in Shanghai's West Bund Cultural Corridor
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