The Museum Boom: Power Station of Art

Power Station of Art

Power Station of Art

In the past couple years Shanghai has seen an exponential growth in museums. According to the New York Times in 2011 alone 390 new museums opened. During this building boom museums have only seen small increases in funding and many are struggling to attract visitors. For instance NPR has reported that by noon on an average weekday Power Station of Art, one of the largest government funded museums in Shanghai, has only seen 200 visitors.

Power Station of Art is the first government-backed museum of contemporary art in China. It is housed in a renovated power plant and located right across the river from another major government funded museum, Shanghai Art Palace. There are currently two exhibitions on show, Cartier Time Art and Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave. Despite these high profile exhibits the museum is extremely empty for a city of 24 million and you can often find yourself standing alone in the exhibition halls looking at the breathe taking pieces.

The Ninth Wave, Installation, 2014

The Ninth Wave, Installation, 2014

Cai Guo-Qiang is a renowned Chinese artist currently living and working in New York City.When I visited Power Station of Art last week I was blown away by his exhibit the Ninth Wave. The featured piece for which the exhibition is named, The Ninth Wave, is a large-scale installation featuring a fishing boat carrying fabricated animals. The animals all appear to be seasick representing their inability to stop the deterioration of the environment. In addition to several large scale installations the exhibition also includes canvas and gunpowder pieces, porcelain and gunpowder pieces, and videos of his explosive shows. In his work I couldn’t help but see a mix of both conventions of ancient Chinese and contemporary art.

All of Cao Guo-Qing’s works relate in one way or another to nature and man’s interaction with it. Some of the most notable materials Cao uses are ones traditionally found or created in China, such as porcelain and gunpowder. He then takes these traditionally Chinese conventions and stretches them to the limits. In his work Head On he draws connections between man and animal to indicate how we often make the same mistakes that animals do. Cao Guo-Qiang also uses porcelain and gunpowder in new and inventive ways as in his work Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter he replaces his canvas with porcelain and his paint with gunpowder.

Head On, Installation, 2006

Head On, Installation, 2006

These works show a Western influence as Cao creates contemporary art, but also relies heavily on Chinese artistic conventions. The influence of Western contemporary art shows a common theme in the development of the Shanghai art market as artists and collectors move away from Ancient Chinese arts and towards modernity. The museum boom is yet another example of the rapid modernization of the art market– as most feature contemporary art– with few dedicated to the art history of China.  These are aspects I will continue to explore in my research of the development of the Shanghai art market.

 

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