In recent years, more Western museums have started to open institutions in China, including London's Victoria and Albert Museum, Paris' the Louvre, and soon, Paris' Centre Pompidou. Amid the rapid increase in Chinese private art museums, Times Art Museum, founded by one Chinese major property developer, became the first Asia-based art museum to set a parallel institution overseas.
▲Times Art Museum in GuangDongfounded by one Chinese major property developer
The museum's parallel, Times Art Centre (Berlin), kicked off in November last year at the Potsdamer Strasse Art District. The museum tends to develop a model for Chinese contemporary art institutions in Europe through exhibitions, research, public education, etc. However, without any reference to look towards, it can be difficult for a Chinese art museum to survive in the Western context in which the museum is operated.
After three months of operation, how's Times Art Centre (Berlin) doing now? I had an interview with Ms Xi Bei, the museum's art director, to discuss how to run a Chinese museum in Europe.
▲Ms Xi Bei, the Times Art Centre (Berlin)'s art director
Art Market Journal: The museum has been open for three months. Is it running smoothly now?
Xi Bei: Everything just started. Luckily, we haven't encountered any unbearable difficulty yet. Berlin is a diverse city. It welcomes all kinds of art and culture. We're happy to see our first exhibition The D-Tale, Video Art from the Pearl River Delta appeared on local newspapers, magazines and even radios. I’m looking forward to the future development of our institution in Berlin.
Art Market Journal: Being the first Asia-based art museum to set a parallel institution in the West, you must have somehow met some difficulties?
Xi Bei: I think the biggest challenge of this project is that we have no reference to look for. We've seen many western art institutions set parallel ones in Asia, but not the opposite. It was extremely difficult for us at the very beginning. Even though we're confident about our operation experience, about the funds and the logistics, the completely new cultural environment still brings us some hardship. We are not meant to be a Chinese institution in the West. Instead, we'd like to be an international museum that happens to set in Berlin. Of course, there's still a long way for us.
Another big difficulty for us are the laws here. As the first Chinese art institution that opened in the West, we know little about the related laws or culture regulations. We have to be very careful not to break the rules.
▲The opening of the museum's first exhibitionThe D-Tale, Video Art from the Pearl River Delta
Art Market Journal: There are quite a few art centres in Europe. Why did you eventually choose Berlin?
Xi Bei: Berlin is so far one of the most experimental, most energetic, and most special places in the world. Compared to other art centres in Europe, Berlin is more suitable for long-term research and development. Local art communities here have profound academic culture and critical spirit. It has already attracted many international artists to reside here. Moreover, Berlin has art museums, biennales, art fairs, etc. The whole art scene here is more mature. The diversity of the art environment makes it a perfect place for an overseas institution like us.
Art Market Journal: Will you worry that the Western audience may not interested in Chinese contemporary art? Or do you think they can't fully understand Chinese art due to cultural differences? What is your strategy regarding the audience?
Xi Bei: We are not particularly focusing on attracting more “Western audiences”. I think as long as we curate good exhibitions, the audience will come. For example, at the opening of our first exhibition, two-thirds of our audience was European. For now, it is true that many people come because they are curious about our museum as there are no other art museums like us. However, if we consider it from a long-term perspective, we need to do exhibitions and education programs that are directly linked to the local culture. This will be the best way to attract audiences and to develop ourselves.
▲The Times Art Centre Berlin venue
Art Market Journal: I've noticed that Times Art Centre Berlin has put many efforts into promoting Chinese artists. Why do you think it is important to introduce Chinese contemporary artists to the Western world?
Xi Bei: Chinese artists have been a “hit” for some years, however, there's no academic research or theory to support them. This is a very serious problem. We hope that more Europe-based art institutions can participate in the discussion of Chinese contemporary art through exhibitions, research, productions, public education, and publications. I also hope our museum, which is China-based, can bring the Chinese contemporary art to the most active art scene in the West and have direct communication with the Western art community. Moreover, through communication, we expect all kinds of contemporary artists can break the limit of geography and create new art together.
Art Market Journal: What's the plan for the Times Art Centre (Berlin)?
Xi Bei: We'll focus on three parts: introduce Chinese contemporary art into Europe, support Chinese young artists who are based in Europe, and make the European audience know more about the Chinese contemporary art scene. We'll cooperate with local art institutions to do exhibitions and research, as well as introduce more Western artists and scholars to participate in the production of Chinese art.