Pride of place for Millais's "Ophelia" at MAP
Two days before its official opening, the Museum of Art Pudong organized a tour for invited guests ahead of the three exhibitions by Britain's Tate, Spain's Fundació Joan Miró and Chinese fireworks artist Cai Guoqiang that was a feast for the eyes.
The exhibits include masterpieces such as Claude Monet's "The Seine at Port- Villez," John Martin's "The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum" and George Richmond's "The Creation of Light. "But the eye-catcher has to be Sir John Everett Millais's "Ophelia" by Tate.
Instead of a wall display, the museum has designed a special hall for the painting.
Ophelia is a character in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. She was Hamlet's betrothed but he breaks their engagement and accidentally murders her father. In her distress, she wanders the countryside collecting flowers. She falls into a stream and drowns.
While Ophelia's death takes place off stage, Millais's painting captures every detail of the scene, thus humanizing her death. "...I am also in danger of being blown by the wind into the water, and becoming intimate with the feelings of Ophelia when that lady sank to her muddy death … "
As he identified with Ophelia, it took her 11 months to finish the painting. He decked his model up in a white dress, embroidered with silver, and asked her to lie in a bath for hours, observing the way her hair and fabric changes in water.
In his painting, Millais used plants as metaphors to highlight Ophelia's fate.
Crow flowers in the foreground of the painting symbolize Hamlet's ingratitude towards her. The weeping willow tree leaning over her symbolizes unrequited love. Nettles growing represent around the willow's branches pain.
Daisies, mentioned in the play, float near her right hand and represent her innocence. The early purple orchid near the edge of the frame alludes to the "long purples" mentioned in the play and is associated with desire. The pink roses floating by her and the white filed roses growing on the riverbank refer to youth, love, and beauty. She is also referred to in the play as the "rose of May."
Some of the avant-garde contemporary interventions by artists such as Dan Flavin, James Turrell, Anish Kapoor, Tacita Dean, Olafur Eliasson and Bridget Riley are also part of the opening exhibits.
Interactive exhibits include Yayoi Kusama's mirror-and-glass installation "The Passing Winter." It is a mirrored cube positioned at eye level that invites viewers to peer through circular holes on each of its sides, from which we see multiple reflections and have the illusion of infinite space.
Unique "fireworks on canvas" by Chinese artist Cai Guoqiang will dazzle viewers. The highlight is "Sleepwalking in the Forbidden City," a contemporary artwork combining art installations and virtual reality technology.
Spanish artist Joan Miró has a unique style and uses women, birds, stars, moon and sun as elements in his paintings, sculptures, and drawings.
The museum, at 2777 Binjiang Avenue, is the latest work of renowned French architect and Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel in Shanghai.
"Architecture is art. MAP had to be built here where, visually, it is part of the Bund, Huangpu River and Pudong. Also, it belongs to contemporary art," Nouvel said in a video message.
Tate has signed a memorandum of understanding with the museum's investor and operator Lujiazui Group to hold exhibitions for three years.
Tickets are available on MAP'S official website (www.museumofartpd.org.cn) and WeChat as well as online ticketing platforms like Maoyan and damai.cn.
The museum will open from 10am to 6pm on weekdays, except Tuesday, and 10am to 9pm on weekends and national holidays.
The exhibitions, "Light: Works from Tate's Collection" will run through November 14, "Joan Miró: Women, Birds, Stars "will be on exhibit until November 7, and "Cai Guo - Qiang : Odyssey and Homecoming" will end next year on March 7, 2022.