New York's Guggenheim gets a shot in the arm

Updated: 2013-03-22 07:27

By Kelly Chung Dawson in New York (China Daily)

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 New York's Guggenheim gets a shot in the arm

The Guggenheim Museum in New York City has received a $10 million grant for new Chinese art. Provided to China Daily

New York's Guggenheim Museum will receive a $10 million grant from the Hong Kong-based Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation to commission art from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao.

The museum also recently announced the appointment of Thomas Berghuis - deputy director of the Australian Center for Asian Art and Archeology - as Guggenheim's new curator of Chinese contemporary art.

"It's an extremely generous and enabling grant," Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong says. "I think previously the museum was overly focused on a single aesthetic related to Bauhaus thinking. Gradually, in the last five years our focus has become bigger and broader.

"Now when we say we're a global institution, we can manifest that in many different ways like this, and it's not just rhetoric any longer."

The grant will allow the museum to commission artworks from three or more artists or artist groups for the museum's permanent collection, to be displayed between 2014 and 2017. Berghuis will travel often to China to meet artists and promote various cultural exchanges, Armstrong says.

The commissioned works will be shown in the Guggenheim's various museums worldwide, which include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and a new museum in Abu Dhabi that has just held its groundbreaking ceremony.

The Ho Foundation is a private philanthropic organization with a Buddhist philosophical bent. In 2009 it launched a permanent gallery of Buddhist sculpture at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

The grant represents an ongoing commitment to Guggenheim. The foundation sponsored Cai Guoqiang's 2008 exhibition I Want to Believe and in 2009 brought The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989 to the Manhattan museum.

"Working with the Guggenheim, the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation seems to foster new creativity in the field of contemporary Chinese art," says Robert Y.C. Ho, the chairman of the foundation's board, in a statement.

"The thoughtful presentation of new works commissioned for this collection should contribute to the wider critical appreciation of Chinese contemporary art in a global cultural context."

The opportunity to educate audiences is particularly important in light of Western misconceptions and occasional ignorance about Chinese art and culture, Armstrong says.

"We're suffering from a decades-long period where we didn't speak to each other," he says. "Culture always lags behind the political realities, and the understanding of Chinese art is considerably behind.

"Many exchanges such as this will be needed, but this is an extremely good beginning. Most of all I hope that through this initiative our audience will have a new respect for contemporary China and its achievements.

"I hope that as citizens of the world, we can demonstrate that art can be a very meaningful way to engage one another, and a way of talking about something other than our problems."

(China Daily 03/22/2013 page18)


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