Guggenheim continues East pivot with Chinese contemporary art commissions, curator

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.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation and The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation announce an initiative and major grant to advance contemporary Chinese art (from left to right: Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation; Jean Miao, Operations Director, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation; Ted Lipman, CEO and President, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation; Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator of Asian Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Dr. Thomas J. Berghuis, Future Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Curator of Chinese Art; and Cai Guo-Qiang). Image courtesy Kris McKay and Soloman R. Guggenheim Foundation

The Guggenheim Museum and The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation announce an initiative and major grant to advance contemporary Chinese art. Image courtesy Kris McKay and Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

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“.

"Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want To Believe", installation view, 2008. Image courtesy Cai Guo-Qiang, David Heald and Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

“Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want To Believe”, installation view, 2008. Image courtesy Cai Guo-Qiang, David Heald and Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

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 Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989", installation view, 2009.  Image courtesy David Heald and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

“The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989”, installation view, 2009.
Image courtesy David Heald and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

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.

CN/KN/HH

Related Topics: Chinese artists, museum collections, art world trends – Asia expands

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