China has a rich and diverse culture, and its history is one of the oldest in the world. For enthusiasts of art, history, literature and travel, China is a wonderful place to explore and discover. It has an extensive list of museums and art centres to visit, and a vast amount of architecture. Below, we’ve compiled some of the most interesting and unique collections of contemporary, modern and traditional Chinese art.
Whether you are an architect, an artist or simply looking to immerse yourself into Chinese culture, here is a list of 15 must-visit art galleries in China.
1. Long Museum West Bund
This museum is a private art collection, founded by art collectors, Mr. Liu Yiqian and Ms. Wang Wei. It is located at the bank of Huangpu River in Shanghai and covers an impressive variety of categories including Chinese traditional art, revolutionary art, and contemporary art from all over the world. Besides its extensive collection, the museum is also fascinating for architects, its flowing exhibition space characterized by a unique “umbrella-vaulted” structure that embraces the idea of openness and interaction with the public.
2. UCCA Center for Contemporary Art
Located in Beijing, UCCA was founded in 2007 on the belief that ‘art can deepen lives and transcend boundaries’. Collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens, founded it intending to promote cultural exchange through art. Today the museum has presented over 140 exhibitions and continues to host public programs and research initiatives that connect the public with contemporary art.
3. Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai
MoCA is the first non-profit, independent, contemporary art institution in Shanghai. It is designed to engage the community and create an interactive environment for students, schools, and the museum making it “An Art Museum without Wall”. Located amidst the greenery of People’s park, the museum exhibits a wide genre of art and artists including animation, comics, displays in humanities and spiritual life.
4. Sifang Art Museum
Besides its unique collection of contemporary art and artists, Sifang Art Museum is itself a work of art, consisting of twenty-four award-winning architect-designed buildings and pavilions. Made in collaboration with artists, the Museum represents the intersection between art and architecture, designed to engage and challenge its audience. Steven Holl Architects has explored the layers of spatial abstraction, shifting perspectives within the structure and expanses of mist and water, making the building itself a must-visit.
5. Rockbund Art Museum
This Art gallery is a contemporary art museum located on the Bund in Shanghai. It is a heritage Art Deco building that fits seamlessly into the cityscape due to the combination of western and traditional Chinese elements on the facade and interiors. With a focus on international contemporary art, the museum does not have any permanent collections, however it has featured the work of celebrated artists like Zeng Fanzhi and Zhang Huan.
6. Today Art Museum
Located in Beijing, Today Art Museum (TAM) focuses on contemporary art research, curatorial, and art publishing. Founded in 2002, the private museum’s vision is to support young artists of the community and share the ‘Art of Today’. Their ideology is dedicated to bringing traditional and contemporary Chinese art into the future. The space is artistic, with stimulating architecture that makes it a must-visit art gallery in China.
7. Chongqing Art Gallery
The striking architecture and vibrant exterior grab your attention right away; and are a stark contrast to the traditional Chinese paintings, sculptures, and photography displayed here. The red and black beams interweave to form a complex yet intriguing pattern, making it one of the most fascinating art museums to visit in Chongqing.
8. Shanghai Museum of Modern Art
Originally a coal bunker in Shanghai, this industrial building was reused, reconstructed, and transformed into a warehouse for art. The space celebrates the vitality of culture and art, with a philosophy of ‘Art’s Happening”. Through music, art, and performance it seeks to rebuild the public’s relationship with the building. Besides modern art, it brings together classic Eastern and Western art and celebrates themes of inclusivity and diversity through its exhibitions.
9. Three Shadows Photography Art Centre
Founded in 2007, this Art center in Beijing is one of the first dedicated solely to photography and video in the country. It is a unique platform for artists, photographers, curators, and researchers to work in The gallery offers support to complete independent projects and gives individuals the opportunity to hold an exhibition, conduct workshops, classes, and seminars.
10. National Art Museum of China
This museum, built as early as 1958, is a cultural landmark in China. The National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) is the one dedicated to national plastic arts in the country. It is six stories high, with over 110,000 pieces of various collections, integrating research, art, culture, and creative industries. Collections include ancient paintings, sculptures, and calligraphy, and the work of world-renowned artists like Lin Fengmian, Xu Wei, and Jiang Zhaohe.
Since its conception, it has hosted thousands of influential exhibitions and is a cultural landmark for China. For all art, history, and culture fans out there, this one is worth a visit.
11. Luo Zhongli Art Museum
This beautiful art museum has an external wall that consists entirely of waste. It is the largest Art Museum in Chongqing and has become a landmark for the city and university since its conception in 2012. Fascinating, innovative, and sustainable, over thirty students were involved in its construction. Its stunning exterior is an awe-inspiring painting in itself and some consider it one of the most beautiful in China.
12. Chongqing Tiandi Art Museum
This building is an exceptional feat of architecture in the Yuzhong peninsula. Designed by Shenzhen Huahui Design, the intent was to blend the structure well into its complex surroundings and integrate it into the landscape. The abstract form and minimal geometry, contrasting interiors, and connecting staircases make it fascinating for architects, but the frequent displays of contemporary artworks by local artists, sculptures, and installations make it a good place for everyone who enjoys art to visit.
13. Baiheliang Underwater Museum
This archaeological site in Fuling, China is truly incredible. It is a UNESCO world heritage site submerged under the water of the Three Gorges Dam. Despite being underwater it possesses some of the most valuable stone inscriptions as old as the Tang Dynasty (763 AD). In terms of literature, art, and history the engravings have great value, and it is also a wonderful experience for children and adults alike.
14. He Art Museum
This one is located in Guangdong and is designed by none other than Tadao Ando. The museum features the He family’s art collection of International Contemporary Art, Chinese Modern Art, and Chinese Contemporary Art. Inspired by ancient Chinese cosmology, philosophy, western style’s use of light, and Lingnan’s terrain, the building has all the elements that make Ando’s work phenomenal.
From a fluid stairwell to the double-helix staircase, the architecture is awe-inspiring enough on its own. However, the museum also contains over 500 works ranging from painting, calligraphy, photography, to sculpture.
15. Guanfu Museum
This museum in Beijing is one of the first private museums to be established and contains relics from the Ming and Qing dynasties, ceramics from the Song and Qing dynasties, and furniture made using ancient Chinese techniques. Compared to the other galleries, this one is more historic, focusing on preserving ancient Chinese arts and crafts.
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- ArchDaily. 2021. Tadao Ando Completes the He Art Museum in China. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/947876/tadao-ando-completes-the-he-art-museum-in-china> [Accessed 3 November 2021].
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- Mocashanghai.org. 2021. MoCA Shanghai. [online] Available at: <https://www.mocashanghai.org/> [Accessed 3 November 2021].
- Chongqing-artmuseum.com. 2021. Hong Art Museum Chongqing. [online] Available at: <https://www.chongqing-artmuseum.com/> [Accessed 3 November 2021].
- Namoc.org. 2021. The National Art Museum of China. [online] Available at: <http://www.namoc.org/en/> [Accessed 3 November 2021].
- Three Shadows. 2021. Three Shadows. [online] Available at: <https://www.threeshadows.cn/cn/> [Accessed 3 November 2021].
- Rockbundartmuseum.org. 2021. Rockbund Art Museum. [online] Available at: <http://www.rockbundartmuseum.org/en/> [Accessed 3 November 2021].