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  • Mar 19, 2020

Cautious Reopenings of Cultural Spaces Across East Asia

*Note: some information in this article, about the re-opening of museums in Hong Kong in particular, has been reversed by a new round of closures announced on March 22. Please see more recent news articles on artasiapacific.com.

Installation view of JEAN NOUVEL’s solo exhibition

With the spread of Covid-19 slowing down in countries across East Asia, some cultural institutions and commercial galleries have reopened their spaces or are otherwise planning to relaunch their public programming. 

In China, following the reboot of factories and businesses, more than 180 public museums across 19 provinces resumed their operations on March 15. In Shanghai, the Power Station of Art reopened on March 13, with additional precautionary measures including temperature checks, the scanning of visitors’ health codes—a system that shows whether the citizen should be in quarantine, and an online reservation system to limit the number of concurrent visitors. OCAT Shanghai relaunched its space on March 17, and extended Zhang Ding’s solo exhibition “High Speed Forms” until April 3. Some private galleries in Shanghai announced their upcoming shows for April and May, including MadeIn Gallery, where Ding Li’s paintings can be viewed by appointment beginning April 12. ShanghArt will host a group show in Shanghai, and a solo exhibition by abstractionist Yu Youhan at its Beijing location. Edouard Malingue’s outpost in Shanghai opened Zheng Zhou’s exhibition of paintings, “Belly,” on March 12 at its space on Longteng Avenue. 

Hong Kong is also gradually recovering. The M+ Pavilion, at the West Kowloon Cultural District, reopened its show of artists nominated for the inaugural Sigg Prize on March 4 to visitors, who have to wear a mask and undergo a temperature check. Since March 11 the Hong Kong Museum of Art has been welcoming a limited number of visitors in two-hour slots at 10am, 12:30pm, and 3:00pm. Asia Society and the Hong Kong Gallery Association have been planning a month-long sculpture exhibition with 21 artworks from 18 local and international galleries, slated to open on March 26.   

In Japan, most of the major museums are still closed, under the guidelines of the Abe government, while others—both private and public—have chosen to remain open regardless of the outbreak of the disease, including the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. A preview of the renovated Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s retrospective “Post Vitam” will go ahead as scheduled on March 19. The museum will open to the public on April 4. 

Korea was one of the hardest hit countries in East Asia, but through rapid, widespread testing and a quick freeze on social activities, has largely managed to contain Covid-19. Accordingly, spaces in Seoul are readying themselves for cautious re-emergence. Art Sonje Center, for instance, the country’s kunsthalle-style nonprofit at the heart of Seoul’s art district, is having an opening on March 24 of Hwayeon Nam’s exhibition “Mind Stream,” which features her new four-channel video Larger Than Life (2019–20), about the dancer Seung-hee Choi (1911–69), who attempted to marry Asian and European styles into a modern form. At the nearby Arario Gallery, pioneering feminist photographer Park Youngsook’s exhibition “Tears of a Shadow” opens on March 26. 

Singapore and Taiwan are the two major art centers in Asia that never entirely ceased activities. The National Gallery Singapore is opening its touring exhibition of pioneering Southeast Asian modernist Latiff Mohidin, “Pago Pago,” on March 27. NTU Centre for Contemporary Art is opening its exhibition “Non-Aligned,” with works by John Akomfrah, Naeem Mohaiemen, and the Otolith Group on April 4. Taiwan, perhaps the least impacted by Covid-19 in East Asia, has largely carried on with its calendar of exhibitions. On April 2, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum will launch a solo exhibition of Erwin Wurm, while postwar abstractionist Paul Chiang’s retrospective will begin on March 28.

Looking further ahead, Beijing Gallery Weekend says it is back on for the last weeks of May (May 22–31), postponed from its original dates in March, and more reopenings are expected from Shanghai and Beijing museums and galleries in the coming weeks. Monday’s launch in Hong Kong of the local initiative Art Power HK is leading up to a month of exhibitions and events in May as the city’s arts industry tries to recuperate after its annual March spotlight was overshadowed by Covid-19. 

HG Masters is the deputy editor and deputy publisher of ArtAsiaPacific.

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

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