With Chinese Museums on Lockdown, Beijing’s X Museum Has Launched a New, Game-Like Way for People to Experience Art Shows at Home

The opening of the new museum itself has been indefinitely postponed.

The homepage of the X Museum's new interactive website. Courtesy of the X Museum.

Museums and art galleries in China have remained closed since late January as the country attempts to curb the spread of coronavirus, but the opportunity to experience art is altogether on lockdown.

The newly established X Museum in Beijing, which was forced to delay its planned opening date because of the virus, has launched an interactive virtual project space, giving people an opportunity to explore the institution from their own homes.  

The site, created by artist Pete Jiadong Qiang, is framed as a kind of game. Users are “players,” navigating its virtual spaces with their arrow keys to enter different portals, shift perspective, and even discover a few easter eggs. The physical shape of the museum is loosely echoed in the basic graphic structure of the site’s interface, but players aren’t limited by the laws of physics and architecture as they start to poke around. 

Courtesy of the X Museum.

Courtesy of the X Museum.

The project wasn’t a reaction to the virus, the 26-year-old founder of the museum, Michael Xufu Huang, explains—it’s been in the works since last October. But it does provide an alternative way to experience a museum. 

“It is not a virtual reproduction of our physical architecture, but instead an extension of our program in a digital dimension,” Huang tells Artnet News. The site will complement the museum’s physical shows, while also supporting online-only curatorial projects designed by artists or produced in collaboration with other institutions. 

The idea, adds museum curator Poppy Dongxue Wu, is to disrupt the way people use museum websites today.

A rendering of the X Museum in Beijing. Courtesy of the X Museum.

A rendering of the X Museum in Beijing. Courtesy of the X Museum.

“I am suspicious of how museums’ online platforms today still follow the logic of Web 1.0, producing contents with minimal interactivity,” she says. “Gamifying the experience comes with the objectives of provoking participation and curiosity.”

The opening date of the X Museum, originally set for this month, has been delayed indefinitely due to the epidemic. An ambitious triennial, which will seek to define the “zeitgeist of the millennial,” will christen the walls of the space when it does open.

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