American, Chinese museums make collaboration priority

Updated: 2013-03-18 10:55

By Hu Haidan in New York (China Daily)

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 American, Chinese museums make collaboration priority

Panelists discuss the challenges and opportunities of museums in the 21st century at the Asia Society in New York on Sunday. Hu Haidan / China Daily

American museums in the 21st century will endeavor to collaborate more with counterparts in China, according to US experts.

"I think the 19th century was the century for European museums, and the 20th century the century for American museums. But the 21st century is the century for Asian museums," said Melissa Chiu, museum director and senior vice-president of global arts and cultural programs at the New York-based Asia Society.

China's ongoing museum-building boom has caught the attention of Jay Xu, director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco's Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture. He lauded the Chinese government initiative and believes the next step in developing the country's museums will be in personnel.

China had nearly 3,600 museums by the end of last year, 20 percent more than in 2009, including 395 built in 2010 alone.

Chiu, speaking at a forum in New York over the weekend, said the desire for collaboration from Chinese museums is huge.

"A lot of Asians would like to show their art in the US," she said.

In November in Beijing, the Asia Society and the official Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries co-hosted a seminar that united museum directors from the US and China.

This weekend's two-day forum in New York brought together 15 museum officials who discussed common needs for their institutions, including programs for a modern audience and prospects for bilateral exchanges.

The US museum leaders said they planned to bring in several exhibitions from Chinese institutions over the next two to five years, though they declined to give details because the programs are still being discussed.

Xu said US-Chinese collaboration is being pursued not only at the national level but by regional museums as well.

"Understanding of China has become a lot more sophisticated among the American public and a new scholarship has been created," he said. "So more museums in America are more focused on different regions of China. That enables them to have a deeper understanding of China's regional cultures."

And ethnic groups across China are eager to have their culture appreciated in the US, the San Francisco director said. Appreciating the art and culture of any locale is enhanced by understanding the people who live there, he added.

Xu said interactive displays and other technology help make museum exhibits relevant to audiences, giving them historical and aesthetic context for what they're seeing.