Mu­seum col­lec­tions emerge from stor­age

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE ENTERTAINMENT - By LIN QI linqi@chi­

The National Art Mu­seum of China is re­ceiv­ing a grow­ing num­ber of vis­i­tors this sum­mer, more than 4,000 on an aver­age daily ba­sis and 7,000 on week­ends. It also feels a strongerthan-ever de­sire of pa­trons to see its im­mense col­lec­tions.

“We reg­u­larly con­duct sur­veys among vis­i­tors, and over the past two years, we’ve sensed peo­ple’s grow­ing de­sires to view our col­lec­tions, es­pe­cially the most rep­re­sen­ta­tive and clas­sic works,” says NAMOC’s di­rec­tor Fan Di’an.

The mu­seum doesn’t have space for per­ma­nent dis­plays of col­lected works. It shows some in spe­cial exhibitions ev­ery year, but this rep­re­sents only a small frac­tion of the 110,000 items in stor­age, a col­lec­tion that keeps in­creas­ing.

To make art held by pub­lic mu­se­ums like NAMOC more ac­ces­si­ble, the Min­istry of Cul­ture re­cently launched the sec­ond “National Ex­hi­bi­tion Sea­son of Bril­liant Col­lec­tion Works from Chi­nese Art Mu­se­ums”. Thirty mu­se­ums are hold­ing or will hold exhibitions to present a to­tal of nearly 3,200 art­works from their store­houses, about 60 per­cent of which are mak­ing their de­but for pub­lic view­ing, from Au­gust to Novem­ber.

“Par­tic­i­pat­ing mu­se­ums show a wide range of pub­lic fine art re­sources from State­and provin­cial-lev­els such as NAMOC, to city- and countylevels such as Chang­shu Art Mu­seum; and of both mu­se­ums af­fil­i­ated to fine art col­leges and gal­leries in com­mem­o­ra­tion of cel­e­brated artists,” says ViceM­i­nis­ter of Cul­ture Dong Wei.

He says the first ex­hi­bi­tion sea­son in­volved 28 pub­lic mu­se­ums that dis­played more than 3,900 art­works, which at­tracted a to­tal of 1.7 mil­lion vis­i­tors dur­ing the same pe­riod last year.

NAMOC di­rec­tor Fan says the sea­son will fur­ther boost pri­vate do­na­tions to pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, and in­spire mu­se­ums to study their col­lec­tions thor­oughly. The mu­seum will hold a Go­ing to the West ex­hi­bi­tion in Novem­ber, dis­play­ing art­works cre­ated in the 1940s from its col­lec­tions.

“There is no end to col­lect­ing. Mu­se­ums need to fo­cus on art­works that as­so­ciate with the re­gional cul­ture, to en­liven them and to make them tell sto­ries that view­ers will feel at­tached to,” he says.

Bei­jing Fine Art Acad­emy’s art mu­seum is one such venue, cu­rat­ing exhibitions that re­sound with the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Its cur­rent show jux­ta­poses Chi­nese paint­ings by two gongbi masters — Yu Fei’an, a Bei­jing na­tive, and Chen Zhifo — which come from its own col­lec­tion and on loan from the Nan­jing Mu­seum.

The mu­seum was built on a rich col­lec­tion of art­works, seals, let­ters and other mem­o­ra­bilia of Qi Baishi (1864-1957). Qi lived in Bei­jing for the last 37 years of his life and was the acad­emy’s hon­orary pres­i­dent. The mu­seum turns its third and fourth floors into a me­mo­rial gallery of Qi’s lega­cies, and mu­seum cu­ra­tor Wu Hongliang says the per­ma­nent dis­plays will change ev­ery six or 12 months. “While on the first and sec­ond floors, we will con­tinue to cu­rate exhibitions of Chi­nese paint­ing masters of the 20th cen­tury,” he says.

Those who are un­able to go to the mu­se­ums can also visit the in­sti­tu­tions’ web­sites to catch up with the exhibitions. For in­stance, China Art Mu­seum Shang­hai will launch its dig­i­tal mu­seum, pro­vid­ing an all-round vir­tual vis­it­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, on Oct 1 to cel­e­brate its one-year an­niver­sary. Bei­jing Fine Art Acad­emy’s mu­seum will soon open a WeChat ac­count.

The ex­hi­bi­tion sea­son will be fol­lowed by a na­tion­wide cen­sus of pub­lic mu­se­ums’ col­lec­tions, says Dong the vice-min­is­ter, which will en­cour­age more mu­se­ums to make bet­ter use of their in­ven­to­ries and plan aca­demic re­search well.

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