China’s approach to museums is along the Field of Dreams line: If you build it, culture enthusiasts will come. The Middle Kingdom planned to have 3,500 museums built by 2015, and by 2012, it had already happened. Among that number are three of Shanghai’s best new attractions.
M21: 21st Century Minsheng Art Museum
An offshoot of Minsheng Museum, this second branch sits on the 2010 World Expo site inside the former French pavilion. Renovations on the pavilion took 15 months, but one of the French pavilion’s unique design features was kept: a 1,093-yard slope that gradually brings you from the first to the fifth floor. M21 threw open its doors in November 2014 with its debut show, “Cosmos: Multiple Practices in Art,” an exhibition that featured several hundred pieces by 52 artists and seven art groups from around the globe.
Before you even have a chance to look at the art at the Yuz Museum, you’ll likely be wowed by its massive size. It once served as an airplane hangar for Shanghai Longhua Airport. Budi Tek, a Chinese-Indonesian art collector, needed an enormous space for his collection, and he’s found it. With the help of Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, the disused 1930s structure has been transformed into a dream gallery. The building’s large footprint, tall windows and high ceilings make it ideal for installations, like one of Maurizio Cattelan’s trademark tree pieces or a portion of Yayoi Kusama’s “A Dream I Dreamed” show.
Just around the corner from the Yuz Museum is this modern behemoth. Investor Liu Yiqian and his wife, Wang Wei, have spent 20 years collecting Chinese artwork, both contemporary and historical. Their original Long Museum, on the Pudong side of the river, has been a favorite of art insiders. And now, their West Bund outpost is packing in Shanghai denizens keen to see China’s largest private museum. On the site of what was once a coal plant is now a gorgeous building whose simple, smooth, gray concrete walls allow the artwork to shine. The basement level houses historical pieces such as Song Dynasty scroll paintings, and the upper level contains installations and contemporary paintings. The museum also hosts rotating exhibitions such as “Rembrandt and His Time: An Important Private Collection of 17th-Century Dutch Master Drawings,” which shows through May 10.