Centralised State. De-centralised Interventions: A Strategy for Entering China

PUBLISHING info: 2004

This strategy proposes that MoMAs entry into China is most efficient and effective through educational symposia and small, targeted shows hosted at ‘off’ spaces—private galleries, rented spaces, or a MoMA space—not aligned with the State. The symposia and exhibitions are conceived as interventions, highly studied and selected. Presenting content of the highest quality and drawing on a unique convergence of events, they also rely on the prestige of MoMAs name to draw a large audience and spearhead discourse.

Symposium: An educational exploring the East-West dialogue with a focus on Urbansim is being pursued. The symposium would be hosted by partnering with a US university and Beijing University. The symposium will be hosted in New York and Beijing.

Exhibition: The proposed exhibition is a guest-curated exhibition on CCTV-TVCC hosted by the Courtyard Gallery in Beijing, opening end of February 2006. Despite CCTV s actual presence in Beijing (it is under construction) still very little information is available on it. The exhibition seeks to unfold and explore the richness of the project in an entirely new way, focusing on program and organizational structure instead of exterior form. The exhibition is designed to be ‘made in China,’ and exported to the West, to conclude with an exhibition in New York that responds to a very different context.

Strategy: MoMA’s standard approach for entering an international context is to partner with an equal institution.

But are there equal institutions in China? The larger museums are still government-controlled bodies, subject to the politics of the state. Educational institutions are politically aligned with the state. Galleries are for-profit entities, often backed by local real-estate developers. Cultural institutions that are independent and not-for-profit are still a long time in the making. Equal partnering within this context is clearly not an option, at least not in the immediate future.

When is right? Timing has reached a critical point: the urban explosion is on the verge of maturation. No one is doing architectural exhibitions in Beijing yet. Western museums are not yet active or present in Beijing. To enter now means to be at the forefront of an emerging, international discourse, made possible through a unique convergence of events: that of MoMAs burgeoning interest in China and the International Council trip in May, the nascent art-architecture world in Beijing and that of the nascent state of the most complex, avant-garde project in China (which sparks an East-West and urban discourse).

There are two prime times for exhibitions, early fall and mid-winter, just after the Chinese New Year. By fall 2006 CCTV will be too developed.

Why CCTV in China? CCTV is one of the first avant-garde projects that will actually be realized in China. Its scale and magnitude is not only unprecedented but will not be repeated. Given the unparalleled nature of the project, its richness and complexity, CCTV presents truly unique opportunity with which to enter China. A Western institution presenting Chinese architects in China would obviously be inappropriate.

Why show a big project in a small space? Since partnering with a State aligned institution is clearly not an option at this point, small, targeted exhibitions provide an opportunity through which to explore further entry. Specific research for each project or installation can gradually engage in different areas of China (now Beijing, then Shanghai, later Guangzhou . . . . )

The Courtyard has an established infrastructure, of a certain standard, of an intimacy suited for the content, and is readily available. Its location next to the Forbidden City centrally locates the exhibition and immediately problematizes the content. Venues too far outside the centre compromise attendance due to traffic. A remote industrial installation is over-scaled and inappropriate. Financial alliances need to be discussed. Negotiations with the Courtyard as to how to reach a broader audience will also be pursued.

While partnering is not a viable option for an exhibition, partnering with a university (as mentioned and outlined above) for a symposium presents a viable format through which extend reach and pursue the Museum’s educational mission.


Work: Writing