Glass celebrates … the Song Art Museum, Beijing

LOCATED in a tranquil, landscaped garden along the Wenyu River in Beijing is the Song Art Museum, a private art institution founded by Zhongjun Wang in September 2017. The museum, home to 80 pieces of art from Wang’s private collection, is a spectacle to behold.

Song Art Museum, Beijing

It is a geometric, white-walled structure sat among flat-topped trees pine trees which, by virtue of its glass panels, looks lit from within. The ultimate epitome of zen, the Song Art Museum invites contemplation and reflection – ideal for appreciating the many wonders that the museum holds.

Song Art Museum, Beijing

Keeping in line with Wang’s aesthetic and spiritual vision for the museum – to be eco-friendly and minimalistic – architect Kuang Ming Zhou from the Shanghainese design company Vermillion Zhou Design Group added a white façade over what was once a Victorian villa where over 60 horses would roam and reside. With its elongated shape that mimics a traditional Chinese paper scroll, the museum is a modern architectural sight, consisting 12 exhibition halls and spanning over 22,000 square metres in its interior and exterior.

Song Art Museum Exterior

Following the words of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu to “govern without intervention”, the museum space is meant to be as pure and blank as possible, to recede into the background while foregrounding the artworks, the museum’s centerpieces. Its simple design allows the viewer to develop an independent and untainted relationship with the artworks, unhindered by any superfluous elements. With this artistic ethos, embodied perfectly by its architecture, it is no wonder that the museum won a Golden A’ Design Award for Architecture, Building and Structure Design in 2017 – the museum stands as an artwork in itself after all.

Song Art Museum Interior

This ideology of purity in understanding art echoes in the museum’s very name. Song comes from the Chinese word for pine trees, 松树 (pronounced sōng shù ), a conventional Chinese symbol of longevity, immaculacy and peace. Similarly, Wang hopes for the Song Art to be a space where different, even disagreeing, artwork can harmoniously coexist and can be examined without any prior judgement.

Wang is evidently unafraid to take disparate works of art and place them in conversation with one another: the museum’s opening show was titled From Vincent Willem Van Gogh to Chinese Contemporary Art.  Continuing in that vein, Wang juxtaposes oil paintings with sculptures and photographs as modern Chinese works sit next to and provoke reflection on Western art. In spite of their differences, they share one similarity: having been first painstakingly collected by Wang over 20 years.

Mr Wang himself is also the founder of Huayi Brothers Media Group, a Chinese multinational entertainment company. Wang is undoubtedly a notable figure in the art world, as a regular participant of auctions and as a collector who can boast priceless artworks from Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and Francis Bacon. A deep love for collecting art and an earnest desire to share that love was the factor that drove Wang to start the Song Art: “The establishing of Song Art Museum put my dream into practice. It is my good wish to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of Chinese contemporary art.” What was previously merely a hobby became, with the Song Art Museum, a fully-fledged career.

However, Wang is not only a collector, he is also a creator. A master of oil painting, his work has shown at exhibitions and fairs and has been auctioned. A special room at the Song Art museum is dedicated to his explorations into creating art.

Private art collections have seen a rise in recent years in China, many of which have been initiated by people like Wang, businessmen who have turned into art collectors. Others include Red Brick Art museum in Beijing and Shanghai’s How Art Museum. How then does the Song Art hope to differentiate itself?

Song Art Museum, Beijing

Wang believes that his genuine devotion towards sharing his personal collection with the broader Chinese public places the museum in a unique position in the Chinese art industry. He hopes this will shine through and distinguish the Song Art from the rest of the crowd: “Let the world see our attitude towards arts and culture. I may not able to say it is the largest art museum in Beijing, but I hope it shows ingenuity.” And if its breathtaking architecture and extensive collection is a testimony of anything, let it be a testimony of this.

by Kay Leong

Song Art Museum, Gelasi Lu, Tianzhu Zhen, Shunyi district, Beijing
Open 10am-5pm Tue-Sun