Long Museum, West Bund, completed in 2014, is one of a pair of expansive art museums in Shanghai founded by billionaire art collectors and property developers, husband and wife Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei. Its Shanghai sibling is Long Museum Pudong, and a third is located at the Guohua Financial Center in Jiangbei District, Chongqing. Designed by architect Liu Yichun and his firm Atelier Deshaus, the museum is part of an extensive regeneration project, the West Bund ‘cultural corridor’, in the Xuhui District, and houses its founders’ vast private collections of paintings, sculptures and installations.
A car park until recently, the wharf on the Huangpu River was used for coal transportation in the 1950s. Yichun wanted to reference its industrial history, and the original 110 metre long coal conveyer bridge still stands, dominant, at the museum’s entrance, transformed only by context into an additional exhibition space. The utilitarian yet serenely graceful interior is clad in lustrous, finely surfaced concrete. High ‘vault umbrella’ ceilings rise above a ‘free wall plan.’ This central architectural feature addresses the structural challenge presented by the grid of the site’s existing underground car park, which divides the 33007 square metres of floor space. This structure now facilitates the matrix of flowing interior spaces, and freer, non linear movement through the museum for visitors. For Yichun, this is conducive to the open-mindedness and spatial sensitivity that are prerequisite for viewing contemporary art.
A permanent collection of Chinese artefacts can be found in the basement, while contemporary art is a presence over all three main floors. As chief curator, Wang Wei oversees a rigorous, high profile exhibition program. Yichun’s unique, soaring gallery spaces are currently home to James’s Turrel’s show Immersive Light, and have hosted new paintings by Ding Yi, a survey of Olafur Eliasson’s large, interactive installations, and live-art jointly curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Not restricted to contemporary art, the program is also scattered with historical gems such as The Delicate Beauty of the Peony: one hundred species of peony painted by the court painter Jiang Tingxi, and The Ink of Scholars: Calligraphy in the Ming Dynasty.
Wei and Yiqian envisaged a museum which placed art firmly amongst every day life, and there is a myriad of inclusive public spaces, including a restaurant overlooking the river, a café, bookshop, courtyard and library.