With its recently announced initiative to support Chinese contemporary art, the Guggenheim becomes the latest major art world player to turn eastwards.
The Guggenheim Museum has launched a project to commission works by contemporary artists born in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Devised in partnership with the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, the move is the latest in a spate of East-West art world collaborations for the museum.
Thanks to a USD10 million grant from the Hong Kong-based Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, the Guggenheim will commission works from artists born in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, which will feature in three exhibitions held from 2014 to 2017. At least three of the works will enter the museum’s permanent collection.
As part of the collaboration, the museum also announced its selection of Thomas J Berghuis, a University of Sydney lecturer and Deputy Director of the Australian Centre for Asian Art and Archaeology, as the institution’s first curator specialising in contemporary Chinese art. According to the Guggenheim’s press release, Berghuis will be charged with identifying artists for commissioned projects, developing exhibitions and forging relationships within the Chinese art community.
A global Guggenheim
Quoted in a press release, Guggenheim Director Richard Armstrong said that the initiative, which will complement the commissions with lectures, publications and education programmes, was part of the museum’s long term plan to “envision and realise the continually evolving potential of a global art museum for our era“.
Understanding China’s art
The initiative to commission Chinese contemporary art comes off the back of two previous collaborations between the Guggenheim and the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation. The exhibitions “Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe,” (2008) and “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860 – 1989” (2009) were both supported by the foundation. Speaking to The New York Times, chairman Robert Yau Chung Ho said, “We don’t want to just help the Guggenheim buy art, but to also have the world benefit from a greater understanding of Chinese culture.”
The Chinese contemporary art initiative is part of the museum’s broader Asian art programme, which was conceived in 2006. Incorporating exhibitions, academic publications and an advisory council, the programme saw the Guggenheim become the first Western art institution to establish a senior curator of Asian art, Alexandra Munroe.
Asia pivot for art world
The Guggenheim’s collaboration with the Richard H. N. Ho Family Foundation is the latest in a series of East-facing projects among Western art institutions.
- The Guggenheim’s ongoing UBS Map Global Art Initiative focused its first exhibition on contemporary art from South and Southeast Asia, signalling a move away from “a Western-centric view of art history“, Richard Armstrong told Art in America.
- Abu Dhabi will see the establishment of branches of the Louvre and the Guggenheim in 2015 and 2017 respectively, in a nod to the UAE’s emerging status as the gateway to the East, according to the Straits Times.
- Art Basel will make its Asian debut in May 2013 in Hong Kong, with over half of the participating galleries hailing from Asia and Asia Pacific.
- London’s Tate Museum launched a South Asian acquisitions committee in October 2012 to improve the institution’s collections of contemporary and modern art.
- The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) announced in March 2013 that it hopes to hold the first TEFAF Beijing, a joint venture with auction house Sotheby’s and the state-affiliated GeHua Cultural Development Group, in 2014.
- Walid Raad explores exploding Middle East art infrastructure in Louvre exhibition – March 2013 – Raad’s show at the Louvre’s Islamic galleries considers the West Asian contemporary art boom
- Guggenheim’s South and Southeast Asia exhibition looks at art without borders – artist list – January 2013 – find out about the 22 artists featured in the Guggenheim’s UBS Map Global Art initiative
- Sotheby’s digs deeper into South Asia contemporary art – Livemint interview – January 2013 – Sotheby’s Yasmini Mehta talks about the auction house’s expansion to South Asia
- Cross cultural influence in Chinese art: “The Art World becomes One” Christie’s panel talk – December 2012 – experts discuss artistic dialogue between East and West in the last century
- Mathaf’s first Eastward looking show – “Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab” in recap – May 2012 – Qatari museum presents a pan-Asian perspective with Cai Guo-Qiang
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