This past weekend a new art museum opened in Shenzhen named after the king of the planets: Jupiter. The grandiose name does, in fact, fit the level of commitment, energy, brain power and money that has gone into this project, as this museum space is massive and chock-full of meaningful and engaging art on two floors of what used to be a warehouse. Seemingly overnight a major, landmark art museum, comprehensive in scope and ambition, suddenly opened here. But, then again, that’s Shenzhen.
The Jupiter Museum of Art, in Futian, is a non-profit, private art museum founded by Munia Culture, and is committed to establishing a world-class museum for contemporary art. It will host exhibitions, academic research, collections, and public education programs. The first exhibit is The Gaze of History and contains powerful and thoughtful work by about 60 contemporary Chinese artists. As the Chinese contemporary art scene did not begin until relatively recently, many of the artists in the show represent the early generations which initiated the movement. A strong point of the show is that each work is accompanied by Chinese and English wall notes, providing background information on the artist, his/her place in the development of contemporary Chinese art, and real insight into the piece being shown.
This current exhibit is a Beijing-heavy show since many of the best art schools are currently in Beijing and most of the best jobs teaching art are at these schools. Many of the artists represented have academic posts and the curator of this first and amazing show, Wang Chunchen, holds a prestigious position in Chinese academia. He was able to mobilize his peers and galleries to provide a wide variety of works from some of the most famous artists to emerge from China. This is an all-star cast that has been assembled, a remarkable new museum of quality work, probably the best place to see art in this city, and this show should not be missed if you want to get a sense of what Chinese art was, is and will become.
One of the minor drawbacks is the location. Art space is often hard to find and one must often look around for an old, abandoned building in a remote area. It must, indeed, have been difficult to find an available space large enough to accommodate the vision, ambition and capacities of the folks behind this venture. However, the location is really not that bad and definitely worth the trek – you can take the 4 line to Futian Checkpoint, where there is a nearby taxi stand. For about 14 yuan a taxi will take you straight to the museum. Admission is 100 yuan, but this seems worth it as well, as you could easily spend hours here on any given day and come away with a different perspective, enriched by provocative work.
The founder of the museum, Windy Lv, told me that Shenzhen, right now, can be compared to New York City in the 1930s. At that time there was a smallish art scene but a huge potential of talent and resources. As the US became a world-power and attracted great European artists, the scene developed rapidly and by the 1950s New York City had become one of the capitals of the art world. At this stage a museum like Jupiter serves the function of introducing the best of Chinese and contemporary art to Shenzhen as a stimulus to artists, art lovers and patrons here.