Museums exhibit online to beat closure amid epidemic

With all Shanghai museums closed due to the novel coronavirus, local art lovers will be pleased to discover they can still get their culture fix online.

With all Shanghai museums closed due to the novel coronavirus, local art lovers will be pleased to discover they can still get their culture fix online.

Several of the city’s museums are being proactive and exhibiting works online while outdoor activities have been curbed during the epidemic.

Lu Yao, from Shanghai Museum, said: “We have nearly 24 online exhibitions (www.shanghaimuseum.net), including a themed Chinese New Year exhibit and some influential shows from the past several years.” 

One highlight features late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) painter and scholar Dong Qichang (1555-1636). It was one of the most anticipated exhibitions when it was first shown at Shanghai Museum in 2018, with large crowds attending every day. 

It was the first time that Dong’s works had been exhibited in Shanghai and cemented his status in Chinese art history with culture buffs previously unaware of his standing.

Those who missed the original show will be delighted to get a chance to view Dong’s original works online.

“We hope to collect and summarize all the digital material and data we have gathered for years, while on the other hand we want to use this special period of time to better understand what our visitors hope to get from these online exhibitions,” said Li Feng, deputy director of Shanghai Museum.

Apart from the online exhibitions, Shanghai Museum also offers dozens of popular lectures and forums on Chinese classical art.

“Of course, visiting a real art exhibition is thoroughly different from a digital art museum,” said Opal Liu, a 45-year-old white-collar worker and frequent Shanghai Museum weekend visitor. “But it also has its advantage. First, you don’t have to wait in line for several hours at the museum’s entrance especially for some big exhibitions. Secondly, I won’t be disturbed by others when appreciating artworks. 

“An online exhibition is more like a visual library that I can read. You get more information viewing artworks this way.”

The Pearl Art Museum has joined Shanghai Museum and launched PAM Online, while the nation continues to fight the epidemic.

Shortly before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the museum launched a new exhibition titled “Landscape and Books” to celebrate its two-year anniversary. Several contemporary artists put their artworks on display under the theme of “West Lake.” 

“West Lake” merges knowledge, art, history and civilization into the landscape. Works by big names such as Chen Danqing and Xu Bing were also included.

PAM Online purposely invited Jiang Fangzhou, one of China’s most famed young women writers, to add her voice to the museum’s audio program. She introduces each artwork at the exhibition, accompanied by several pictures of an artist’s work.

Going to a museum plays a big part in Chinese people’s cultural life. Based on data analysis by an affiliate of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 40 percent of tourists went to museums during last year’s weeklong Spring Festival holiday.

The National Cultural Heritage Administration also revealed that museums in China drew more than 1.1 billion visits last year.

However, since the temporary closure of the nation’s museums, viewing art online is providing a solution to quench the thirst of the country’s art lovers.

The Inner Mongolia Museum offers an online glimpse into the history and culture of the Liao Dynasty (907-1125), while Chengdu Museum provides an online tour of Chinese dining culture.

The Palace Museum, National Museum of China, Hebei Museum, Suzhou Museum, Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, Hunan Museum, Sanxingdui Museum, Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, Gansu Provincial Museum and Dunhuang Academy China all offer online visual experiences as well.

“Before the Spring Festival, I booked a visit to the TeamLab Borderless, a new museum beside the Power Station of Art,” said Jay Wu, a 35-year-old IT worker. “I wanted to take my daughter for a stunning visual experience, as I visited TeamLab museum in Tokyo.”

Opened in November, the Shanghai TeamLab museum features a collection of 50 original artworks and interactive installations.

“I received a text message from the museum saying that my reservation was canceled due to the temporary closure,” Wu said. “It was such a pity. But I certainly will make my slot again when it reopens.”

Asked whether he was interested to see the works online, Wu shrugged off the idea.

“The wrapping atmosphere in a museum can not be obtained elsewhere, let alone the special ambience permeated from the artworks themselves.

“For me, this unique experience can only be felt inside an art museum or in front of an original work. Of course, one day if VR technology ripens, it might possibly change the venue of an art museum.”