It’s often said that Asia still lags behind the West in terms of developing a thriving scene of art galleries, art auctions, savvy art collectors, and art museums and institutions. But because it has shoes to fill, so to speak, Asian art definitely still has lots of room to grow — a fact evinced by the rapid and runaway growth of new museums in the region. If you’re looking for some artistic inspiration in a gleaming new building on your next jaunt around Asia, why don’t you pay one of these three new Asian museums a visit?
Beijing Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum
Funded by China Minsheng Bank to the tune of some 200 million RMB, what is now the largest private museum in China opened its doors this June after an exhaustive refurbishment of a massive, decommissioned electronics factory by Studio Pei Zhu, which also designed the Dali Museum in Yunnan and the Art Museum of Yue Minjun in Sichuan.
Located just north of the Pace Museum and 798 Art Center, the trio of interlocking, reflective volumes that form the core of the museum recalls the angular, gleaming surfaces of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Inaugurating the new museum is a sprawling group exhibition by some 159 artists that explore the theme of a fledgling civil society in China that has emerged in the three decades since the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, including an imposing five-meter disc by Yan Lei made of multicolored LEDs called “Luminous Object of Civil Power.”
Museum of Contemporary Art, Yinchuan
While the museum boom continues apace in China’s coastal cities, landlocked northwest China welcomed its first contemporary art museum this August, located in a wetland park in the capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region: home to a large indigenous Muslim minority, as well as a historical stop on the Silk Road. Designed by the Beijing-based We Architect Anonymous, some parts of MoCA Yinchuan’s façade resemble a jagged stack of books, while other parts feature wavy, meandering creases made of glass-fiber-reinforced concrete — apparently a reference to the sedimentary layers created by shifts in the flow of the Yellow River.
In recognition of the unique demographic makeup of the region, MoCA Yinchuan focuses on Sino-Islamic art: the six inaugural exhibitions spotlight contemporary folk pieces, late Qing dynasty Chinese oil paintings, as well as art from the Middle East.
Oita Prefectural Art Museum (OPAM)
Newly opened in April 2015, this Shigeru Ban-designed building dubs itself “a museum of the five senses, a museum of encounters.” Ban’s talent for coaxing subtle variations out of modular structures is perfectly showcased here: an external shell of six-meter-high retractable glass screens can be recombined to create flexible spaces, while the inner latticed timber façade references local traditional bamboo crafts. Environmental considerations have not been neglected, either: of note are the photovoltaic panels installed on the museum’s rooftop and a ground source heat pump that taps the region’s natural geothermal resources.
OPAM’s permanent exhibition on the third floor features works by artists with ties to Oita prefecture, such as the Edo era painter Tanomura Chikuden and modern artist Fukuda Heihachiro, although the expansive, light-filled ground floor foyer also showcases Dutch designer Marcel Wanders’ “Eurasian Garden Spirits,” a whimsical series of floral patterned balloons weighted to the floor whose motifs evoke the arrival of Dutch traders in Japan during the 16th century.