Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop examines the role of private museums in Asia for the International Herald Tribune. The rapid rise of art in Asia combined with the near total absence of an infrastructure of museums and art historical education is creating a fascinating situation. Will Asia create a new model for Modern & Contemporary art through private museums? Or will these private institutions need to become public entities to have real authority over time?
“In Asia, the private sector plays a very important role in supporting contemporary art, because governments are not really that interested,” said Dr. Oei Hong Djien, one of the most established art collectors in Indonesia and one of the first to set up a private museum in the region. In Indonesia, he added, “there is no real infrastructure, galleries, or fairs to support young artists.”
Dr. Oei opened the OHD Museum of Modern & Contemporary Indonesian Art in Magelang in Central Java in 1997. It is accessible to the general public by appointment, and he estimates that the museum displays only about 10 percent to 15 percent of the 2,000 pieces or so in his collection at any time. “The rest of the pieces are in storage and we rotate,” he explained, adding that he has also lent pieces to national museums in Singapore, South Korea, Japan and the Netherlands. […]
In Singapore, there are at least three private museums of contemporary Asian art, including Art Retreat, which was opened by the Indonesian collector Kwee Swie Teng and which includes a gallery dedicated to the late Chinese master Wu Guanzhong. […] A big problem facing those private museums in China that do see the light of day is sustainability. The Shanghe Art Museum in Chengdu and Dongyu Art Museum in Shenyang both closed down in the early 2000s after being open only a few years, reportedly due to a lack of sustainable funding.
Funding is not the only impediment to a successful private museum, Ms. Smith says. “It’s about programming, staffing, fixing a focus of activities, and developing and sustaining a meaningful public profile for the museum.”
Asian Collectors Showcase Works (International Herald Tribune)