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Sep 16 2020

New Museum Highlighting Guangzhou Art Finally to open in October

by Fion Tse

Exterior view of He Art Museum, Shunde. Courtesy He Art Museum.

The new, privately owned He Art Museum, located in the Shunde district of Foshan, a city in China’s southern Guangdong province, announced on September 16 that it will open to the public on October 1, after months of delays. Its original March 21 opening date was postponed in early February due to Covid-19, following the shuttering of cultural institutions across China.

He Jianfeng, son of billionaire He Xiangjian who is founder of the electronics manufacturer Midea Group, commissioned architect Tadao Ando to design the RMB 200 million (USD 28.3 million), 16,000-square-meter museum in 2015 to house over 500 works from the He family collection of modern and contemporary Chinese and international works. The Museum places a particular emphasis on vivid, colorful ink paintings from the region’s  Lingnan School, founded in the late 19th century in Guangdong, with aims “to bring art and culture to the people of . . . Shunde, the Pearl River Delta, China, and international visitors who are curious about our heritage and culture,” according to the press release. Founding director Shao Shu, previously from Shanghai’s Long Museum, explained the Museum’s ambition to offer visitors an opportuntity to discover “world-class artworks and our Cantonese heritage.” Admission is currently priced at RMB 150 (USD 22).

The building, which includes an 8,000 square-meter exhibition space, is cast in Ando’s signature punctured gray concrete. Its dual-helix staircase creates a spiraling effect in contrast to the square walls of the exterior courtyard, an homage to the ancient Chinese cosmology concept of a round sky and square earth. It corresponds with the Museum’s name he, meaning harmony and peace. In addition, a circular atrium provides natural light, referencing the open-air architectural style of the region’s classical Lingnan architecture.

The Musem’s inaugural exhibition, “From the Mundane World,” curated by Feng Boyi, will be split into an exhibition opening on October 1 and a later show, as announced via WeChat. The group exhibition aims to examine human production and consumption within ecological systems, investigating issues of regional culture and heritage, artistic identity, and sustainable development. Meanwhile, the Museum’s permanent displays, opening alongside the inaugural show, will showcase works by acclaimed ink painters from the region including Lingnan School founders Gao Qifeng, Gao Jianfu, and Chen Shu-ren, as well as works by well-known international artists such as Zao Wou-Ki and Yayoi Kusama.  

The He family began to collect art more than a decade ago. The father and son duo recently made headlines when the 77-year-old senior He was abducted in June by kidnappers in his Foshan mansion, and his son reportedly escaped to call the police.

Fion Tse is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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