Guan Yi interview (from Art Newspaper)
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[楼主] art-pa-pa 2008-08-15 16:32:02
Meet China"s top collector of contemporary art
by Chris Gill

source: the Art Newspaper




Guan Yi tells us about his plans to open a museum and sculpture park on a 16.5-acre plot of land in Beijing

Guan Yi, 42, has assembled the most important holdings of contemporary art in China. He comes from a family which made huge sums of money in chemical manufacturing in Qingdao but in 1997 ceded management of the family business to his brother to concentrate entirely on collecting. At the time most contemporary art was going abroad to foreign buyers and he believed that “we Chinese should recognise that this art of our time is important”.

Guan Yi believes he is collecting art as a mission, doing the work that public institutions and the Chinese government are failing to carry out. He now owns “700, maybe even 800 works” of Chinese art including pieces by Huang Yong Ping, Wang Guangyi, Zhang Peili, Wu Shanzhuan, and Yan Lei. Around one third of the collection consists of large-scale installation pieces. He says he is increasingly frustrated by the rampant speculation in the Chinese art market which is making it difficult for talented young artists to emerge today. He also sees the lack of professional art critics in China as another big problem. The tendency in China to equate high prices with art historical importance is hampering the development of significant work, he says.

Although Guan Yi prefers to stay out of the limelight, he granted us a rare interview at his warehouse in Song Zhuang, on the outskirts of Beijing, to discuss his project to build a museum for his collection as well as a sculpture park for works commissioned from international artists.

The Art Newspaper: What are your intentions for your collection?

Guan Yi: I am planning to open a large contemporary art museum in a district of Beijing called Beigao, which is between the 798 art district and the airport. The land I hope to develop is next to a space where China’s Ministry of Culture is also planning to open a contemporary art museum.

TAN: Are you working with the Ministry of Culture?

GY: No, they are doing their project independently. I am doing mine, they are doing theirs.

TAN: In China all land belongs to the government and usage rights are a complicated issue. Have you discussed this with the authorities?

GY: Yes, we have communicated, but there are some outstanding legal issues regarding the land. In China, land is not for personal use. Under present law you can only get a 20-year lease on land, so we are negotiating on this point. The amount of investment I commit to the museum will depend on the guarantees I receive from the government on this issue. We want a definite decision.

TAN: What is your idea for this private museum? There aren’t many such museums in China.

GY: I have collected a lot of installation work. What you can see here, in my warehouse, represents only 10% of my collection. One third of what I own is installation work and some pieces are more than several hundred metres in size, so to display my collection, I need a space of 15,000 sq. m. If you give these big pieces to a government museum such as the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, the Shanghai Art Museum, or the Guangdong Museum of Art, they have no place to put them. So I thought the solution was to build an art museum, not far from the centre of Beijing, something like Dia:Beacon [in upstate New York].

TAN: So Dia:Beacon inspired this project?

GY: Yes, partly, but they have converted a disused factory, whereas I will construct a new building to display my collection. I especially like the idea that I can get architects and artists to collaborate on this so the space can be designed around the works of art, to make the space fit the art. This model is new for China.I have 16.5 acres of land, and the built space cannot be more than 15% of the entire area. So a big part of the land will be used for a park which I will use to show installations. And this will be the international part of the museum complex.

For example, I admire the Serpentine Gallery in London. Hans [Ulrich Obrist] and Julia [Peyton-Jones], the co-directors, are my very good friends. When Hans visited my collection he was very excited, very moved, by what I have here. So, I would like to invite international artists to create installations for this section of the museum. Works that fit the environment, so it will become an installation park.

In a way it will also be an environmentally-themed museum. It will use solar power and other devices. Also, the transportation around the park will be powered by environmentally friendly methods. We would like to explore ways that artists can turn this into a kind of installation work. For instance, I very much like the work of the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson that was in Tate Modern [Eliasson’s giant sun, The Weather Project, was installed in the Turbine Hall from October 2003 to March 2004]. In 2003 I met him in Shenzhen, and when I saw his work in Tate Modern I wanted to buy it, but it was too expensive.

TAN: Is the museum going to be entirely funded by you?

GY: It is my personal project, my own money. The more we talk about this museum, the more I feel I should talk about the things that happened in the past which brought me to this point. In the 1980s, I was also an artist, but maybe not as modernised as other artists, I can’t paint very well.

I can’t write well either, but when I was quite young my older brother bought me a Nikon FMR. In the 1980s in China, this was an extremely good camera, so I became a photographer. That time in China was called Wenhua Autobahn, or the Culture Utopia period.

TAN: Yes, I’ve heard that in the 1980s, books were freely translated and there was a lot of information coming in from the West, even though the economy wasn’t developed. But it all ended after 4 June 1989.

GY: Yes. So I was around during that time, until 4 June. Then in 1992 or 1993, as China’s economy started developing, I went into business. I still paid attention to developments in the art world, but by then information was restricted and you couldn’t read about much in the Chinese art press. People would bring me Taiwanese art magazines, artists’ magazines and by 1997 I was already thinking about returning to the art world. But how to do it? There was no way for me to be an artist. For a while I thought of becoming an architect, but then I discovered that wasn’t so easy either. So for a long time I made a lot of plans, and attended a lot of exhibitions, events, and thought about how I could return to the art world. At the same time, I would see work I liked a lot, so I started collecting.

After I started buying art, I realised that the whole system for collecting contemporary art in China was organised for foreign buyers, everything was going abroad. No one Chinese was collecting contemporary art. This got me very excited. I thought that what I could do was come up with a method to save some contemporary art for China.

The last 30 years have been years of great change in China, in our society, in our ways of thinking. It is an immensely important period in our history. It is symptomatic of government ideology, that there was no systematic collection or protection of art and culture during this period. So I became anxious to do this. I am not being a nationalist, I just feel that we ourselves should have kept some work of this period, not others. For example, if this work is collected in Paris, and then they give it back to you or<
[沙发:1楼] guest 2011-10-20 14:28:02
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