A vision to make public art truly public

Wang Jie
Fosun Foundation (Shanghai), a non-profit organization supported by the diversified Fosun Group, has announced its "Public Art Year in 2021" project.
Wang Jie
A vision to make public art truly public
Courtesy of Fosun Foundation (Shanghai)

Tatsuo Miyajima’s “Counter Sky Garden”

Almost 10 years ago when mentioning the public art in Shanghai, most people would think of bronze sculptures focusing on the themes of celebrities, bonds of love, or children growing up.

But with the fast development of China’s contemporary art scene and more opportunities and access to contemporary trends from around the world, more contemporary art elements have gradually been infused into the city’s public art spaces.

Last year, the biggest art project financially supported by the government — with a daunting 150 million yuan (US$23 million) — was implemented at the Yangpu riverside.

Twenty works by 29 contemporary artists from home and abroad decorate the 5.5-km riverside pedestrian avenue in the Yangpu District.

Big names include Liu Jianhua, Oscar Oiwa and Felice Varini.

Likewise, the Fosun Foundation (Shanghai), a non-profit organization supported by the diversified Fosun Group, in the Bund Finance Center has also announced its “Public Art Year in 2021” project.

Since its establishment in 2016, the foundation has organized a series of exhibitions that have attracted large crowds, such as the solo exhibitions of American photographer Cindy Sherman and Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

“The Fosun Foundation is dedicated to the sustained exploration in the field of public art, with a philanthropic vision of turning public space into a platform for art education,” said Wang Jinyuan, president of the Fosun Foundation and Fosun Foundation (Shanghai).

A graduate from Fudan University who worked for many years as a news presenter and journalist with a keen view of the contemporary landscape honed by years of journalistic experience, Wang began as a private collector.

She later sought a larger platform for her support for the arts.

Under her leadership, the Fosun Foundation (Shanghai) has become a leader in the arts, culture and fashion on the Bund.

“It has always been the mission of the Fosun Foundation to promote the best contemporary art both from home and abroad, exploring the boundaries or mixing art, fashion, music, architecture and other forms of expression,” said Wang.

A vision to make public art truly public

Wang Jinyuan

Q: What is the criteria for selecting the exhibitions by the Fosun Foundation?

A: There two criteria in choosing the exhibitions at Fosun. The first one is to choose the top contemporary artists on the international art stage, like Julian Opie, Cindy Sherman and Tomas Saraceno. Actually we are more concerned with art itself, plus the publicity for such kinds of exhibitions.

The other one is to promote and support Chinese contemporary artists in an international context.

In the past five years, Fosun has organized a series of solo exhibitions for Yang Fudong, Qiu Anxiong and Zhang Ding. Apart from supporting them, we also hope to conduct a survey on the entire “artistic ecology” of Chinese contemporary artists in a “bilingual context” through these exhibitions.

Q: How do you arrange visiting routes and build interesting environment for visitors in the design of exhibition space?

A: Thanks to Tomas Heatherwick, the designer and architect, the light and shade inside the exhibition hall subtly shifts every two hours according to the natural light shining through the transparent French window.

Most artists that Fosun has collaborated with find this play of light and shade quite interesting and, especially, a challenge when considering the overall visual effect for their exhibitions here.

Furthermore, we are always seeking new possibilities for each section.

For example, we have created a more flexible space on the first floor that can either be open or closed, and added an automatic sliding floor on the fourth floor. We are also keen on the adjustment and design of the lighting in the exhibition hall so that we can provide the perfect experience for visitors.

Q: Why do we need public art? What are the activities and events for the “Public Art Year in 2021” ?

A: We believe public art is an indispensable part in ordinary life. It is a more direct way for public art education while at the same time helping to build up the aesthetic taste of the public.

There is basically no such specific organization in China supporting and promoting public art, despite the fact that public art is now a major for many art academies in China. Each academy has a different direction. So we hope we can use the advantage of this international platform in the study of this area.

For us, public art is never a one-year project, but an ongoing one.

In 2021, we plan to organize a series of activities and events including an “International Public Art Forum,” a “Lecture Hall of Public Art Masters,” an Artist in Residence Program in Shanghai and Lijiang and “The Art Season on the Rooftop of Fosun.”

Q: Tell us one of the highlights of this year’s exhibition?

A: The rooftop of Fosun boasts one of the best views along the Huangpu River waterfront. But it was not fully incorporated into past exhibitions.

This year, visitors get to see the “Counter Sky Garden,” by Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima, on it.

Spring and autumn in Shanghai are amazingly beautiful and comfortable. We hope that visitors will spend an enjoyable and relaxed time on the rooftop; perhaps an unforgettable experience.

Q: Do you have a clear vision for the Fosun Foundation in the next 10 years?

A: The Fosun Foundation will open several branches in Chengdu, Wuhan and Beijing in the next few years.

We hope that Fosun will become a name for “high quality art” and also a one-stop destination for art for the public.

We hope to invite more artists to conduct a dialogue between art and the city.

Q: What are three adjectives to describe a good public art work?

A: Public. Participative. Site-specific.

Q: As a non-profit organization, can ticket sales and the selling of art derivatives cover basic operational expense?

A: Very difficult. But we try to make ends meet for sustainable development.

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