With the Opening of Two New Museums (and a Biennial), Chengdu Is Positioning Itself as the Art Capital of Southwest China

The state-funded Chengdu Museum of Contemporary Art and Chengdu Tianfu Art Museum opened to the public over the weekend.

Chengdu Museum of Contemporary Art, China. Courtesy of Chengdu City Construction Investment.
Chengdu Museum of Contemporary Art, China. Courtesy of Chengdu City Construction Investment.

Two new art museums are joining the burgeoning art scene of Chengdu in western China, where they will debut as the venues for this year’s biennial in the city.

The state-funded Chengdu Museum of Contemporary Art and Chengdu Tianfu Art Museum, situated in Tianfu Art Park in the capital city of Sichuan province, home to giant pandas and mouth-numbing spicy hotpot, opened to the public on Saturday, but the opening ceremony was been postponed due to public-health concerns. (Stringent international travel restrictions are still in place in China.)

Operated by the Chengdu Art Academy, the two museums built by the lake each have different focus. With a total area of 430,556 square feet housing 13 galleries, four public education spaces, two academic lecture halls, and six art storage facilities, Chengdu Tianfu Art Museum focuses on collecting and researching local art against a backdrop of international and domestic art history.

Chengdu Museum of Contemporary Art, on the other hand, positions itself as a “future-oriented international comprehensive art center,” according to the museum. The institution contains eight galleries, three public education spaces, two art storage houses, a video hall and several multi-purpose art spaces, totaling a floor area of 355,209 square feet. The museum pledges to look into the future development of art locally and abroad.

The two new institutions opened as hosts of the Chengdu Biennale. Titled “Super Fusion 2021,” the show features more than 500 artworks by 272 Chinese and international artists across eight thematic exhibitions. There’s a variety of both homegrown and international stars on the featured list, such as Zeng Fanzhi, Song Dong, Cao Fei, Zhang Xiaogang, and Xu Bing, alongside Anish Kapoor, Olafur Eliasson, Do Ho Suh, Tony Cragg, and Kaws.

“As one of the largest-scale, most academically minded art biennales of the post-COVID era, the 2021 Chengdu Biennale embodies the vitality of Chengdu’s cultural development and the fruits of its artistic labors,” said Fan Di’an, chair of Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, curator of this year’s biennale, which runs until April 6, 2022.

As one of the most populated cities in western China with more than 20 million people, Chengdu is the seventh wealthiest city in China with a GDP of 1.7 trillion yuan ($267 billion) in 2020. The city has been boosting its arts and cultural offerings and testing the market for art with the inauguration of fair Art Chengdu in 2018. The fair continued into 2019 with satisfactory sales, but has been put on hold amid the pandemic. The UCCA Center for Contemporary Art is also looking into expanding into a fourth location in Chengdu.


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