Long Museum West Bund: a gem of art and architecture

Wang Jie
Architecture is seen as frozen music, an epic of stone and a cultural monument. An art museum epitomizes this.
Wang Jie

Editor's note:

Architecture is seen as frozen music, an epic of stone and a cultural monument. An art museum epitomizes this.

Aiming to level up with the world's top museums such as the Pompidou Center in Paris, Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Tate in London, museums in Shanghai have been "blossoming" in the past decade.

Visiting museums has become a lifestyle, a kind of social activity or recreation. As well as the exhibitions inside, what else can visitors enjoy on a cozy weekend afternoon at a museum?

In this series "Art Unfrozen: A Journey through Shanghai's Cultural Landmarks," we will guide you through an immersive experience, varying from each museum's architectural style, gift shops to its cafeteria or coffee shops in its neighborhood.

Now get ready for a museum trip!

Long Museum West Bund was founded in 2014 by renowned art collector couple Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei. Their extensive collection covers a broad range of categories including traditional and contemporary Chinese art, Chinese revolutionary art, and contemporary artworks from various parts of the world, including Asia, Europe and the United States.

Since its opening, this private museum has attracted many celebrities, including Prince William and Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, during their visit in Shanghai.

Long Museum West Bund: a gem of art and architecture
Dong Jun / SHINE

Architectural style

Liu Yichun, one of China's top architects, took on the design job.

He and his team spent two-and-a-half years on the project, which finally won him the AR Award for Emerging Architecture by Architectural Review and the Honor Award for Architecture Best in Show 2019 by AIA China.

Sited along the Huangpu River in Xuhui District, the site was once a coal dock.

The core of the building is "ruins," because according to Liu, "a ruin gives a sense of freedom and is where the energy of nature hides."

"It is also a root metaphor that transcends cultures. When a building returns to nature, a neutral structure emerges. This makes me realize that such a structure-scape is always latent inside architecture and this is why we could find a way to continue our work with ruins."

Many visitors might have a vague impression on first sight of the museum – a daunting gray concrete enclosure.

However, the design employs a "vault umbrella" structure, which is a cantilever structure based on an independent wall.

The interior walls and ceilings are both of as-cast concrete finish. Their ambiguous geometric demarcation creates a unique spatial experience offering both a sense of protection and a sense of freedom.

Various combinations between "vault umbrellas" of different directions create multiple meanings for the above-ground space.

Covering an exhibition space of 16,000 square meters, visitors might miss its underground exhibition halls inside this two storied building.

A tip for shutterbugs: Every evening around 6pm, the lighting is on the outside of the museum, conjuring up a striking visual effect akin to a fashion magazine cover under the backdrop of an original geometric steel structure along the riverside.

Long Museum West Bund: a gem of art and architecture
Dong Jun / SHINE


It is a pity that the museum doesn't have an indoor cafeteria, except for Long Bar that spreads out a line of chairs and tables. Long Bar could be a choice for those who want to sit for a quick soft drink against the backdrop of the Huangpu River.

However, a compensation would be made with the Long Restaurant.

Sited just opposite the museum's entrance, the restaurant is a perfect place to go for Western cuisine after a visit at the museum.

Long Museum West Bund: a gem of art and architecture
Dong Jun / SHINE

Gift Shop

The museum's gift shop is located at the entrance. The art derivatives vary from small contemporary sculptures to copies of Chinese antiques.

The bestseller is a copy of "Chicken Cup." The tiny porcelain cup from the Chenghua period, dating from 1465 to 1487, is painted with cocks, hens and chicks. Known simply as a "Chicken Cup," it is considered one of the most sought-after items in Chinese art, held in a revered equivalent to that of the jeweled Faberge eggs of tsarist Russia.

This rare wine cup was fired in the imperial kilns of China's Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) more than 500 years ago. Liu Yiqian, the museum founder, bought it at an auction for HK$281.2 million (US$36 million) in Hong Kong in 2014, making it one of the most expensive Chinese cultural relics ever auctioned.

The second on the list is an enameled brush pot named "West Ladies on a Journey" from Qianlong reign (1711-1799) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The albums of the ongoing exhibition at the museum are also on the bestsellers' list.

If you go:

Date: Tuesdays-Thursdays, 10am-6pm; Fridays-Sundays, 10am-8pm

Venue: Long Museum West Bund

Address: 3398 Longteng Ave, Xuhui District


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