Does the sun ever set on the Guggenheim Museum? The institution has appointed two new curators to expand its Chinese contemporary art programme. Hou Hanru, the artistic director of MAXXI, the National Museum of the 21st Century Arts in Rome, has been hired as a consulting curator. Xiaoyu Weng, the founding director of the Kadist Art Foundation’s Asia programmes, will join the museum as an associate curator of Chinese art.
In the coming months, the pair will begin to commission new work by artists from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macao. The Guggenheim is scheduled to present the commissions in a thematic group show in November 2016, after which they will enter the museum’s collection.
The exhibition is the second in a three-part series funded by the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation. In 2013, the Hong Kong-based foundation donated a reported $10m to establish an eponymous Chinese art initiative and endow a curator dedicated to Chinese contemporary art. (The foundation has also sponsored other Guggenheim exhibitions, including Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe in 2008.)
The first exhibition in the series, a solo presentation of work by the Chinese conceptual artist Wang Jianwei, opened in October 2014 and drew nearly 250,000 visitors. The show was organised by Thomas Berghuis, the initiative’s first curator. Berghuis left the museum last spring to pursue a to-be-announced project, according to a Guggenheim spokeswoman.
Richard Armstrong, the Guggenheim’s director, said in a statement that the new hires “will broaden our curatorial purview” as the museum “continues to engage with and present the creative achievements…of artists working around the world.” In 2006, the Guggenheim became the first modern art museum in the West to hire a senior curator of Asian art.
The Ho Family Foundation programme “relies on a highly collaborative method between the curators and artists”, Armstrong says. Hou Hanru, a key player in China’s underground art scene in the 1980s, is no stranger to collaborating with artists. As a young curator, he commissioned Thomas Hirschhorn and Douglas Gordon, among others, to create work for a small corridor in his Paris apartment. Hou also organised the Gwangju Biennale in 2002, the Chinese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and the 5th Auckland Triennial in 2013.