A double celebration

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The Long Museum marks a decade in business with not one but two exhibitions, featuring masterpieces from around the world.

The Long Museum in Shanghai is celebrating its 10th birthday with two exhibitions on the West Bund: Being in the World, which features portraits, and Multiple Sights, which focuses on abstract art.

The two exhibitions are showcasing more than 260 sets of artworks that present an overview of modern and contemporary art around the world and start a dialogue between Chinese and Western cultures.

On the opening of both shows on Nov 13, the founders of the private museum, Liu Yiqian and his wife, Wang Wei, spoke about their journey over the past 10 years.

The Long Museum first opened in Pudong New Area on Dec 18,2012, before expanding to the West Bund space in Xuhui district on March 28, 2014. Two years later, a third branch of the museum opened in Chongqing city in southwestern China. Over the past decade, the institution has held about 200 large-scale exhibitions that welcomed more than 30 million visitors from home and abroad.

"In all these exhibitions, the Long Museum has been dedicated to the advocacy of traditional Chinese culture, promotion of Chinese contemporary art, and furthering cultural communication between China and the West," Liu says at the opening.

"We were named a patriotism educational center by Pudong New Area, the Lifelong Learning Experience Center by Xuhui district, an outstanding institution for volunteers' training, 'museum of the year', and most popular location for social media users in China," Wang says.

"All the honors have greatly encouraged me and my husband, and helped the Long Museum have healthy and sustainable growth."

Wang notes that the museum has become a recognized member of the global community of museums and some renowned galleries would give the Long Museum priority to showcase its rare and precious artworks.

"Ten years ago, we didn't know how a museum should be operated. Learning from State-owned institutions didn't work for us, and eventually we found our way by establishing a corporate-style system to serve public interest and fulfill our social responsibilities," Liu says.

"We didn't have any grand goal to begin with, and we simply went about things with hard work. One day when we are old, I hope the younger generations will adopt the same approach and go on to bring fine art from China and the West together to forge more cultural communications and keep the museum pure and simple as it is."

He points out that the museum's audience demographics have gradually changed over the last 10 years, noting that at the beginning most visitors to the Long Museum were mainly professional art lovers. In the past three to five years, however, more young people could be found in the museum premises.

"Sometimes, I would even hear them talk about the artworks in the exhibition hall, and I would join their discussions," he says.

Liu and Wang are both dedicated art collectors — the man is passionate about classical Chinese art while Wang is more focused on modern and contemporary art from across the globe. Among the exhibits at the two ongoing shows are some major artworks that have appeared at global art fairs and auction events over the past decade.

One such work is Young Man With a Flower Behind His Ear, among the first paintings French artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) completed after arriving in Tahiti in 1891. The painting was originally in the collection of French modern master Henri Matisse (1869-1954).

The museum has a track record of astute collections. In its collection, but not as part of the exhibition, is Nu Couche (Reclining Nude) by Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), which it purchased for $170.4 million in 2015, making it the second-most expensive artwork ever sold at an auction.

However, Modigliani's Portrait of Paulette Jourdain, which was created in 1919, is on show.

Iwona Blazwick, the curator of Being in the World, describes the exhibition as a response to people's yearnings for social encounters. For this exhibition, she chose more than 140 artworks from the museum's collection, ranging from collage to hyperrealism that reflect major movements in modern and contemporary art. She then designed a journey spanning four sections for visitors.

The first section focuses on the single figure, on artists' self-portraits and the relation between the artist and the model. The second captures the dynamics of families, friends and lovers. The third features depictions of groups that may be strangers or colleagues, workers or revelers. The fourth takes visitors into the realm of abstraction where artists use color, light and form to generate sensory environments, and is an invitation for people to "move from looking at the body from outside, to occupy the body from inside, in order to encounter the material reality", writes Blazwick.

The second exhibition, Multiple Sights, was curated by Wang herself.

The showcase begins with Rhymes of Peking Opera, a piece created in 1950 by Wu Dayu (1903-88), a representative artist of modern Chinese abstract painting, and offers visitors the chance to appreciate abstract artworks from different periods, countries, genres and forms.


Being in the World and Multiple Sights

10 am-5:30 pm, Tuesday-Sunday, Nov 13 to Feb 5.

Long Museum West Bund, 3398 Longteng Avenue, Xuhui district, Shanghai.

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