Of the several new private collectors’ museums due to open in eastern China, the Long Museum, Shanghai, is one of the most ambitious. It is also the only one that has not been delayed by internal problems or external events, such as the 18th Party Congress, which began in November.
Long, which means dragon in Chinese, has been founded by the energetic Shanghai couple Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian, who invested Rmb280m ($45m) to buy the building in the developing eastern Pudong area. Another Rmb20m went into construction and renovation, says a spokeswoman for the institution. Meanwhile, Wang and Liu’s second museum, the Long Contemporary Art Museum, is due to open late next year in Shanghai’s southern Xuhui District. The Long Museum, which has around 8,000 sq. m of space spread over three floors, is due to open on 18 December. For the launch, around 300 works from the Long’s vast collection will trace Chinese art through the ages, including so-called “Red” art of the Maoist period, organised into three shows by different curators, while 15 specially commissioned contemporary pieces will be on display in the atrium.
“We have works coming from ancient China and the republic of China, Red art and art of the 1990s after reform,” says the curator Lü Peng. He has organised the exhibition of Chinese contemporary art called “Recontinuity in History”. “Previously, we could only see one period of history at a time, as [China’s] Modern and contemporary art collections are rather scattered, so by connecting all of these together, we offer a broad picture on transition in its history.”
Lü says that works created in the 1980s by Chen Danqing and Zhou Chunya, Wang Guangyi’s Red-influenced art from the late 1990s, and recent works by Xu Bing referencing Chinese traditional art, form “bridges” connecting the different eras. He says that he joined the project’s many academic and curatorial advisers because “the hardware is, of course, very good, but what I really care about is [the founders’] plans for future exhibitions, academic research and education. They have the biggest collection of a private museum [in China], which is a rich resource for analysis and research.”
The curator Chen Lüsheng has organised “Revolutionary Era: Art since Yan’an”, which will fill the second floor. The third floor will feature traditional Chinese art and antiquities, including a throne of the Qing Dynasty that was made for Emperor Qianlong, who reigned from 1736 to 1796.
The building takes the white cube concept literally, but the architect Zhong Song’s design also nods to Chinese heritage with a central courtyard-like atrium. This space will be used for thematic exhibitions, starting with commissioned works by 15 Chinese artists, including Zhou Chunya, Wang Guangyi, Zhang Xiaogang and Xiang Jing. The guest curator of the installation is Li Xianting. Meanwhile, the basement provides space for additional events, academic meetings and more exhibitions.
“I’ve been to the construction site a couple of times since the project started, and I can feel their ambition and deeply understand how hard it is to manage a museum,” says the sculptor Xiang Jing, who has many works in the Long collection. “Building a museum is tough. What [Wang and Liu] are doing now will benefit posterity… they have already set a good example for the better development of private museums [in China].”
• Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper with the headline "Enter the Dragon (part one)"