Ink art museum opens in Shanghai suburb

Baolong Art Museum is backed by the collector Xu Jiankang

Xu Jiankang's collection of ink art fills an enormous circular hall with a spiral ramp Baolong Art Museum Baolong Art Museum

Shanghai's museums boom continued late last year with the new Baolong Art Museum in the Qibao area of the city's Minhang suburb. The 23,000 sq m private space, operating under the English name of Powerlong, is backed by the collector Xu Jiankang and his Baolong Group and presents some of his extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century Chinese ink art. The museum is part of Baolong's Minhang real estate development, which includes a mall and a luxury hotel as well as a commercial art gallery and auction house. Shanghai's is the second Powerlong Museum, following one in north Chinese port city Qingdao. The company also has commercial art centres in development with its properties in Hangzhou and Xiamen.

Powerlong is unaffiliated with the private Long Museum chain, owned by collectors Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei and with three locations currently in Shanghai and Chongqing. Though the two share a similar focus on combining traditional Chinese art and antiquities with contemporary art, "our focus is on old and new Asian traditional art," says a spokeswoman, while Long exhibits a mix of Chinese and international art, old and new. Xu Jiankang's collection of ink art, held separately from the museum, fills an enormous circular hall with a spiral ramp redolent of the Guggenheim, as well as two more permanent halls. It includes over ten works by Guan Liang, and notable works by Zhu Qizhan, Feng Zikai and Zhang Daqian. Qi Baishi's 1931 Zhichitianya Landscape Album, 12 ink landscape panels, were purchased at auction by Baolong Group for 195.5 mln RMB in 2016 ($30m). Qi's twelve-panel Twelve Landscape Screens commanded a record RMB931.5m ($141m) at Poly Auctions Beijing in December.

Of the two opening exhibitions, Tracing the Past and Shaping the Future: Powerlong Museum Inaugural Exhibition (until February 28) presents 300 works by 80 artists including traditional-infused contemporary Chinese art such as Zhang Wang's scholar rocks and Cai Guo-qiang's ink-like 2015 gunpowder painting Sky Ladder on Huiyu Island. Curator Wu Congrong also includes traditional opera, music and architecture in the presentation. A long term but changing exhibition Shucang's Precious Collection draws from the early modern ink and calligraphy collection of Hoi Kin Hong, Xu Jiankang's father. It traces the histories of early Chinese modernism through the Shanghai, Beijing-Tianjin, Chang'an and other painting schools.

Powerlong is the first art museum in Minhang, situated near the Hongqiao International Airport, and the project delayed opening by two years due to construction setbacks, says the spokeswoman. It is part of a public-private partnership that will see the museum though not Xu's collection switch to public hands after its 20 year lease expires.