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The Origin of the Chinese Modern and Contemporary Art - China Art Museum, Shanghai

By OGP Reporters / Members Contribute File Photos

Oh Good Party

In contemporary terms, China Art Museum is the avant-garde but unqiue, it is seen as the symbol of diversity and inclusiveness, a special style which boasts for both political and art culture.

China Art Museum, located at No. 205, Shangnan Road, Pudong New District, Shanghai was opened on October 1, 2012. It was previously the China Pavilion of Expo 2010. The China Pavilion received nearly 17 million visitors during the 2010 World Expo. It is one of the largest museums in Asia.

This is a splendid museum - its contents, its architecture, and its display. You can compare it to the Centre Pompidou in Paris which also is modern and has lots of escalators to the great disadvantage of the latter. The inverted pyramid is noticed immediately and the structure is massive. When standing outside and staring at it, the ability for steel to hold together in such a shape is magnificent. There are 5 floors in the building, elevated from the ground by 4 large corners, and these floors are full of around 27 different galleries, several of which are devoted to permanent exhibits tracing the history of Chinese modern and contemporary art, masterworks of star painters and sculptors, and 21st century Chinese art. Other halls are used for staging themed events by local and foreign artists, as well as art treasures from overseas museums. A few shops and places to eat along the way. Most of the galleries were lacking in any english text, its confusing with no guide, though you don't need that to appreciate the art some explanation helps.

Don’t be mistaken by the name of this place, this museum is not about arts in general; it’s not even about Chinese arts in general. Quality of pieces are out of this world from the early 1900s to 2010s. not many traditional ones though. Most of the collections there are about contemporary Chinese art - meaning paintings themed around the 1941 revolution and propaganda of the Communist Party.

Over the museums five floors, which are named by altitude, works introduces the ascent of modern art in Shanghai at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century. The 33m floor also has some fantastic visiting exhibitions - with rooms previously stocked by The British Museum (London), the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), Maisons de Victor Hugo (Paris), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Wellington), but we recommend blitzing the lower floors, generally full of Mao-era kitsch and neo-socialist realism commemorating Chinese historical events.

Currently, the China Art Museum owns around 14,000 pieces of art through donation and purchase, showing the origin and development of modern Chinese art with plenty of art treasures - mainly oil paintings, prints, Chinese paintings, and sculptures. The China Art Palace cooperates with other world famous art museums to hold exhibitions of modern art from other countries.

The museum will have five themed exhibitions as the Shanghai government works to expand the cultural influence of the World Expo on the city. The three levels of the exhibition hall will showcase the history and development of modern art in Shanghai and China. The basic exhibitions include four themes: the Origin of Chinese Modern and Contemporary Art, Artworks Featuring Shanghai’s Historical and Cultural Development, the Artworks of Noted Painters and Arts Development in the New Century.

The artworks of "The Origin of the Chinese Modern and Contemporary Art", are arranged in Halls 2, 3, and 6 of the 49-meter floor and Halls 7, 8, 9, and 10 of the 41-meter floor. They were mainly created in modern Shanghai. About 1,200 pieces of delicate artworks, including Chinese paintings, oil paintings, prints, sculptures, and calligraphy are on display. This themed exhibition is the first one focusing on the history of art of Shanghai and China.

The second themed show is called "The Exhibition of the Achievement of the Project for the Creation of Artworks Featuring Shanghai's Historical and Cultural Development", which is located in Halls 15 and 16 on the 0-meter floor. The artworks in this unit keep a close relationship with the local culture.

Famous paintings of seven noted painters, who is He Tianjian, Lin Fengmian, Guan Lang, Hua Tianyou, Xie Zhiliu, Wu Guanzhong, are displayed in Halls 22, 23 and 24 on the 0-meter floor.

The fourth show is displayed in Hall 1 of the 49-meter floor and Halls 20 and 21 of the 0-meter floor, Chinese culture and the beauty of the Chinese landscape are expressed through about 200 paintings and 50 sculptures in this chapter.

Apart from the four basic exhibitions, there are two excellent paintings in China Art Museum. The highlight of the museum collections - the painting "Immortals Toasting the Birthday of Heavenly Queen Mother" - is exhibited in Hall 4, of the 49-meter floor. It is a representative work of Ren Bonian, a famous Chinese painter in the late Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). The painting describes the lively scene at a birthday party. Forty-six figures as well as trees, birds, stones and other characters are well proportionately arranged on the painting. In order to protect the treasure, this painting is covered by glass and visitors are required to stand on the conveyor belt to appreciate this treasure without stopping in front of it. Those who are eager to get a close look can pass the conveyor belt again or see a replica in red and white colors outside the hall.

The other famous collection is the moving multi-media "Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival". It used to strike the audience's eyes during the Shanghai Expo and now it is stored in Hall 5 of the 49-meter floor. Along the River During the Qingming Festival, also known by its Chinese name as the Qingming Shanghe Tu, is a painting by the Song dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145). It captures the daily life of people and the landscape of the capital, Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng) during the Northern Song. The theme is often said to celebrate the festive spirit and worldly commotion at the Qingming Festival, rather than the holiday's ceremonial aspects, such as tomb sweeping and prayers. Successive scenes reveal the lifestyle of all levels of the society from rich to poor as well as different economic activities in rural areas and the city, and offer glimpses of period clothing and architecture. The painting is considered to be the most renowned work among all Chinese paintings, and it has been called "China's Mona Lisa." The painting was a particular favorite of Puyi, the Last Emperor, who took the Song dynasty original with him when he left Beijing. It was re-purchased in 1945 and kept at the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City. The Song dynasty original and the Qing versions, in the Beijing and Taipei Palace Museums respectively, are regarded as national treasures and are exhibited only for brief periods every few years. This modern electronic picture is 30 times larger than the original one created by the famous artist Zhang Zeduan of the Northern Song Dynasty. It vividly depicts the prosperous city life in ancient China. More than 1,000 figures appear in the day and night scenes.

Entry free, but there is a fee for the magnificent "Life Along The River" exhibit(If you are over 70, free with proof of age). Which animates an old scroll which has had great historical appreciation, with many copies. This show gave me a very strong feeling of being there, as it plays against a very long, curved screen showing a town, its people and scenery in the prosperous capital of the Northern Sung. Besides this, we felt carried into many of the 20th century paintings, which showed people and scenes of the era - including the arrival of Europeans.

It was one of the most innovative and engaging displays we've ever seen in an art museum!

Zong Ming, a deputy head of the publicity department of the Party's Shanghai committee, said, "It will become another iconic cultural venue in the city."

Yes, China Art Museum showcases some 6,000 works of art telling the story of modern China. Absorb images of Chinese modernization, from communist to capitalist, its resistance and embracing of Westernization, and the emergence of contemporary Chinese identity. From the Haipai style of Shanghai's emulators of Western movements, to 21st-century Chinese art by 260 artists, the two-floor museum boasts work by the most important modern national painters.

This is not the place to look for traditional Chinese brush paintings or terra cotta soldiers. But it is a large collection of contemporary Chinese art that gives insight into the Chinese culture and thoughts of the last century before, during, and now after the establishment of the People's Republic of China. There is revolutionary and propaganda art but there are also collections of artists that reflected the struggles of the people in a true, raw sense.

In contemporary terms, China Art Museum is the avant-garde but unqiue, it is seen as the symbol of diversity and inclusiveness, a special style which boasts for both political and art culture.


1. Tickets are free; special exhibitions are RMB 20.

2. Tuesday to Sunday from 10 : 00 am to 6 : 00 pm (no admission at 5 : 00 pm), closed on Mondays (except national holidays)


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