Private museums in China aim to establish international networks

Mainland owners gather in London for an international summit but experts say the lack of professionalism is the main obstacle to growth

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 4:38am

Private museums in China are eager to establish international networks, with their rapid emergence drawing global attention.

However, professionalism remains a great concern given a lack of museum talent on the mainland, according to private museum owners.

These owners gathered in London this week to attend the Private Museum Summit on Thursday and give talks at the Art13 London fair yesterday.

Philip Dodd, chairman of the creative consultancy Made in China and chairman of the Art13 London international advisory board, said he hoped the events in London could serve as a platform for private museums from around the world to exchange expertise.

"Such networking is very common for the public sector, but there hasn't been enough for the private sector," said Dodd, who led a private museum discussion in Hong Kong last year at ART HK.

The mainland has 3,589 museums, 3,054 state-owned and 535 privately owned, the China Daily reported in December. And the number of private museums is on the rise.

Dai Zhikang, owner of Shanghai's Himalayas Art Museum, was among the private owners from China at the London summit.

Another was Wang Wei, who founded the Long Museum in Shanghai with her husband Liu Yiqian and just opened its first show in December. Their museum occupies 10,000 square metres and reportedly costs 10 million yuan (HK$12.34 million) a year to run.

Wang said her museum had become a brand in Shanghai. Going international would be an important next step, she said.

"International audiences find our collection interesting. We also want to cultivate a dialogue between Chinese artists and their counterparts from overseas," she said.

The Long Museum is working on plans to open a second museum at the end of this year.

Wang's museum has its own academic and education teams and she said she hoped it could offer more educational initiatives targeting young people.

However, she said besides funding, assembling a professional team could be challenging.

Li Bing, owner of Beijing's He Jing Yuan Art Museum, who also attended the summit, said international exchange would be key to improving the professional standards of private museums.

"But the key issue is that there's a lack of museum talent in China," Li said. "A museum needs good management and good academic standards."

Dodd has high hopes for private museums in China, which he says carries less baggage than their Western counterparts.

Professionalism, however, was what China needed to work on. "Professionalism has to be learned faster in China," he said.