Rockbund Art Museum
Since the latter half of the 20th century¡ª
which saw a swiftly spreading tide of
globalization, intense cooperation and competition in the world¡¯s political and economic spheres, along with flourishing social and cultural diversity¡ªthe mission and function of museums in this new century, as well as the role they play
in contemporary society, have been subjects of animated discussion in the museum community. The 2006 INTERCOM annual meeting and its theme,
New Roles and Missions for Museums, emphasized the active responsibility museums have to society. As non-profit institutions, museums pursue culture in the public interest and manifest the fundamental values of social equality and justice. Yet they must also confront the transformations brought about by social and cultural development, challenging their former role as authoritative, rigid institutions and exploring the diverse possibilities for interaction between art and life in contemporary society¡ªall the while remaining sensitive to practical ways in which museums might carry out their responsibilities to society.
After years of planning and renovation, the Rockbund Art Museum opens in the Asiatic Society building in 2010, alongside the World Expo. The former Shanghai Museum, founded in the mid-19th century by the Royal Asiatic Society, was the most active center of academic research in the Far East, as well as one of China¡¯s earliest museums. By locating a new platform for cultural exhibitions and exchange on the same site, the Rockbund Art Museum represents a continuation of its cultural heritage even as it brings new meaning to its former incarnation, the Royal Asiatic Society and the Shanghai Museum. The Museum seeks to bring together resources from the business community and academia to explore the possibili-ties of a private, professionally-run art museum. It seeks to develop a wide range of activities and well-rounded discussions by hosting exhibitions, research, and educational and outreach programs. By encouraging participation and interaction, sparking reflection and dialogue, and developing a platform for contemporary cultural dialogue and exchange, it aspires to be a birthplace for original
To this end, the Rockbund Art Museum¡¯s inaugural exhibition takes its historic heritage and vision for future development as the starting point for a dialogue between culture and society, as well as for an exploration of art appreciation and interpretation in different chronological and cultural contexts. For its first exhibition, the Museum invited Cai Guo-Qiang to present Cai Guo-Qiang: Peasant da Vincis, which substitutes contemporary creativity for the scientific curiosities that characterized the museum¡¯s displays in the past. Replacing them are the dreams of grassroots Chinese peasants, presented within a historical and cultural context as a vision of the populace¡¯s strength during China¡¯s modernization. This exhibition also reflects something fundamental to socialism through the creative labors of Chinese peasants and other material such as films about Soviet space technology, through which it engages in a dialogue of contrast with the trend of global capitalism that characterizes the World Expo.
In recent years, Cai Guo-Qiang has sought out creative elements in a
Chinese linguistic context and historical continuum, holding a particular affection for the rural citizens who occupy society¡¯s lower rungs and urban fringes¡ª
and who form the backbone of urban construction and modernization. The convergence of spectacular energy that makes up Cai Guo-Qiang: Peasant da Vincis incorporates the lively spontaneity of peasants to recreate the process of production and operation of their various inventions, as well as the propaganda posters that blanket the countryside. Although the artist¡¯s own hand is not visible in the exhibition itself, ingenuity of its conception seems to infuse these ordinary inventions with the language of art. For the artist, artistic creation itself has become a medium for cultural dialogue as well as a form of artistic production. The role of the creator has been usurped by that of curator and manipu-lator of the mechanisms of artistic
production. These devices, which Cai Guo-Qiang has called ¡°cultural ready-mades,¡± reveal the innate creativity of Chinese peasants and their endeavors to imagine life in the future, and at the same time these attempts to dialogue with global high-tech trends express a powerful dream of elusive world ideals.
As an utterly original creative undertaking, Cai Guo-Qiang: Peasant da Vincis radiates a dazzling new beam of light from the artist¡¯s rich creative spectrum. The fluid poetry of the exhibition conveys a sense of the epic and formulates an aesthetic that is fresh and unadorned. A concurrent symposium planned for
the museum launch and exhibition opening, to which major domestic and international scholars and experts have been invited, will address topics such as the role of private art museums and the challenges they face under the influence of globalization, as well as new ways
of thinking about contemporary art. Together, the symposium and the Cai Guo-Qiang: Peasant da Vincis exhibition inaugurate the Rockbund Art Museum
as a new exhibition space for contemporary art, a public space for public life and education, and a platform for international exchange of contemporary culture.
The official launch of the Rockbund Art Museum is first of all a great tribute to the Shanghai Bund de Rockefeller Group Master Development Company, Ltd. Throughout their development of the Bund historic area, they maintained a spirit of respect for cultural history and preservation of cultural assets, and they gave their full support to restoring the Royal Asiatic Society building to its original function as a museum, demonstrating through their actions the role of a cultural enterprise in the interests of society. Mr. Thomas Ou Yaping was the principal motivator throughout the arduous founding process, and we are grateful for his continual encouragement, assistance, understanding, and support. And this launch would not be possible without the work performed by David Chipperfield Architects and the Rockbund Company to realize the restoration, as well as the tireless efforts of
all of our colleagues at the museum.
For the successful staging of its first show, Cai Guo-Qiang: Peasant da Vincis, the Museum is also honored to have the
support of the Center of International Cultural Exchange at the Ministry of
Culture, who co-sponsored this highly significant exhibition. The Aurora Group provided their landmark outdoor screen and Optoma sponsored projection equipment. Shiseido Co., Ltd. granted the symposium, and the students and faculty of the Shanghai Theatre Academy participated in the process to make this exhibition possible, and I would like to express our gratitude. Finally, let me pay tribute to Mr. Cai Guo-Qiang, the team at Cai Studio, and all of the rural inventors who took part in the exhibition. I offer my heartfelt gratitude for their contributions to such a rich and profound inaugural exhibition, and for granting the Museum such a perfect launch.（文章来源：《蔡国强：农民达芬奇》）