Leading Chinese art academy opens international design museum

One of China’s top art schools, the China Academy of Art (CAA) in Hangzhou, found a special way to celebrate its 90th anniversary last month by unveiling a museum dedicated to design. The China Design Museum opened its doors on April 8 with five exhibitions, including a retrospective of its architect, the Portuguese Alvaro Siza (until July 8).

Seven hundred works from the museum’s collection of 7,000 are on display in the Life World: The Collection of Western Modern Design gallery, with sections on chair design, pioneers of modern design, and manufacturing for consumption. Bauhaus Imaginista: Moving Away is part of an international research project anticipating the 2019 centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus, with further exhibitions in Kyoto, Moscow and São Paulo and workshops in Rabat, New York, Delhi and Lagos. All sections of the project will be brought together in a major exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin next year.

Design museums are still new to China – the first, the Shenzhen Design Society, opened last December in partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Hangzhou Museum was created around a collection of “modern Western design works featuring the Bauhaus”, says its assistant curator, Zhang Chunyan, and it has a long-standing collaboration with the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation. The Chinese public must “understand the [Western] origins of modern design to understand their everyday life designed by design,” she says.

The 16,800 m² Chinese Design Museum joins the handicraft museum designed by Kengo Kuma on the academy’s Xiangshan campus, south of Hangzhou. “Our country needs a design museum,” says Zhang, “CAA, as a pioneer in social art education, has the responsibility and ambition to make it happen.”

Mildred D. Field