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A mirror to society

Updated: 2012-12-27 14:31
Source:Shanghai Daily

"During the 1950s and 1960s, people donated their collections to museums as the proletariat dominated society. All kinds of assets were considered to have come from exploiting the people."

"Now, times are different. Luxury goods, including artifacts, have become trendy items. Ostentatious display is one way to differentiate between classes."

"I don't think this will change in the future, only take other forms," added Zhan.

While having your own museum sounds like the ultimate calling card, the costs can be daunting.

In addition to the collection itself, the owner must splash out on rent, salaries, specialist equipment - as works require an environment with strictly controlled temperature and humidity, plus energy costs.

"It is estimated costs will be no less then 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) annually," Zhan said.

Showcase of taste

"But for some Chinese entrepreneurs, a private museum provides a means to announce to the public that they are not only expert at making money but also have exquisite taste in art and culture, superior to their peers," added the critic.

"In my eyes, this is a perfect way to build up the image of a person or even a company."

However, Zhan also admits that the emergence of private art museums is creating more diversity of the art scene, a sentiment echoed elsewhere.

"I am very interested in the oil paintings created during the so-called 'cultural revolution,' but they seldom appear at auctions," said Wang Yuhong, a local young artist.

"That's why I'm looking forward to the opening of Liu Yiqian's museum next year, as he is noted for buying many such paintings at auctions."

Li Jing, a member of organizing staff at Liu Yiqian's Art Museum, said it is looking to top private art museums in the West for models on running the venture.

Indeed, retaining interest in a private collection over the long term is a major challenge.

"It demands a professional team organizing frequent activities and exhibitions, otherwise the museum will be dead and attract few visitors," Zhan said.

"It also demands passion and support from the descendants of the founder, as there is always the possibility that they could just close the museum and sell the collection."

Such uncertainties can provide an advantage for a public museum seeking donations.

"A public museum is permanently open to the public, attracting more visitors than private museums," Chen Kelun from Shanghai Museum said.

"We also have the best security and equipment and top experts who study artifacts."

"Donors' collections are safe and secure for centuries at the museum," added Chen.

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