Private Collection Is “Filling The Gaps” In Public Museums
An interesting development in the Chinese art world over the past several years has been the rapid growth of private collection (which we’ve covered extensively) and the creation of private museums by some contemporary or traditional art “super-collectors.” From Guan Yi’s contemporary art “warehouse” to the mixed contemporary/revolutionary art museum planned by Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian, many of China’s top collectors have some plan or another to open their own museums. However, the Chinese government’s lack of clarity regarding the establishment and regulation of private museums has caused a great deal of confusion among some in the Chinese museum world. In the hopes of clearing up this confusion, the “Private Museum Summit” was recently held in Beijing.
From Sohu, via Hexun (translation by Jing Daily team):
Private collection has already become one of the fastest growing areas of art collecting, and to a large degree has filled in the gaps in public collection. Over the course of time, private collection has expanded in scope, and at the same time the establishment of private museums has become more visible. But at the moment, the country’s attitude toward the management and establishment of these private museums has been unclear, making the question of how private museums should operate and develop one of the major issues in the world of art collecting. Amid this environment, the first-ever China Private Museum Summit was held in Beijing.
[At the summit,] Wu Shu, author of “Who’s Collecting China” and “Who’s Auctioning China,” presented findings of a survey that showed that private museums account for around 40% of the museums in the United States, while they account for 60% in France and Britain. Now, [Wu feels that China] should pay attention to private museums. Wu Shu said he believes that China needs “cultural zealots” to protect cultural relics. According to his survey, China has many private collectors, and they’re important for preservation, but the country’s attitude toward private museums isn’t very clear.
Over the past 20 years, China has lost a great number of cultural relics to overseas buyers. With the injection of Western capital, prices for cultural relics have skyrocketed, and as such the number of these objects that have been repatriated has been inadequate. However, though some in the country feel this is a helpless situation, private museums can become a bridge, linking private collectors and the preservation of cultural heritage.
However, Wu Shu also found that the collection level of China’s private museums is both good and bad. Since many collectors only have a superficial understanding of what they’re doing, a large number of them have spent a great deal of money collecting counterfeits. As such, collectors need to work on their education and set out clear goals.
Gehua Cultural and Creative Industry Center director Wang Yudong said he feels the conditions for China’s private museums are unripe, because the law doesn’t recognize privately owned cultural relics. Currently, the majority of private museums give priority to cultural relics, with few focusing on contemporary art. Thus, these museums have serious difficulties at the moment.
Wang also revealed that the Beijing Municipal Government has many policies — including financial support — for the development of the cultural and creative industries, but it isn’t terribly enthusiastic about public museums as part of the development of these industries. As such, private museums look even better at this point, as they can set up clubs and trade groups to cooperatively accomplish a great deal of work [in the creative industries].
Although the summit doesn’t seem to have accomplished that much, it is important that the issue of regulation is being brought up now, since it wouldn’t do much for the fostering of arts education in China if a large number of the relics on display at private museums turned out to be fakes. Also, while few of the issues raised at this summit affect private museums focusing on contemporary art — which we’ll undoubtedly see more of in coming years — the fact that private collectors are starting to realize that they need to work together to get the Chinese public more interested in the arts is an important development.