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Cultural centres
The Bilbao effect
If you build it, will they come?
Dec 21st 2013 | From the print edition

Visitors’ spending in Bilbao in the first three years after the museum opened raised over €100m ($110m) in taxes for the regional government, enough to recoup the construction costs and leave something over. Last year more than 1m people visited the museum, at least half of them from abroad. This was the third-highest number ever, so the building continues to attract visitors even though the collection on display is modest. Other cities without historic cultural centres now look to Bilbao as a model for what vision and imagination can achieve.

スペインのビルバオ美術館の成功例から始まっているこの記事ですが、If you build it, will they come?というサブタイトルにまず目にいきました。ええ、映画『フィールドオブドリームズ』のあのシーンが目に浮かびます。

といっても、コンテンツも揃えないと来場者は増えないようです。ですから、If you build it, will they come?と疑問形になっているのでしょう。

The example of the new Ordos Art Museum in Inner Mongolia, beautifully designed by a firm of Beijing architects, suggests that just building a terrific museum is not enough to ensure success. The city of Ordos has sprung up fast and is relatively rich, thanks to discoveries of oil and gas, but the museum has no collections and precious few plans for exhibitions. No wonder it is devoid of visitors. There may be a lesson here for the new cultural centres about to be built in other parts of the world.


Mad about museums
China is building thousands of new museums, but how will it fill them?
Dec 21st 2013 | From the print edition

美術館・博物館が増えている状況をグラフで表してくれているのですが、From red books to guide booksというタイトルをつけています。「毛沢東語録」のことを英語ではred bookとかlittle red bookなどと呼んでいるようです。キャッチーに訳そうとすれば「文革から文化へ」てな感じでしょうか。

In 1949, when the Communist Party took control, China had just 25 museums. Many were burned down during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 and their collections dispersed. But the rapid growth and urbanisation that accompanied Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up” policies after 1978 also launched a museum-building boom that did far more than simply replace what had been lost. Every provincial capital now seems to be constructing a new museum, or upgrading one it has already. This is seen as a good way to kickstart a cultural programme, even if the building has nothing to display for a while. Rich Chinese collectors are also putting up private museums to show off their treasures.

According to the current five-year plan, China was to have 3,500 museums by 2015, a target it achieved three years early. Last year a record 451 new museums opened, pushing the total by the end of 2012 to 3,866, says An Laishun, vice-president of the China Museums Association. By contrast, in America only 20-40 museums a year were built in the decade before the 2008 financial crash.


The best of these satisfy a growing public demand for culture. The Mao Zedong generation was taught that China’s traditional art was backward and not worth bothering about. Now young Chinese are interested in both traditional and contemporary art. One area that has recently gained a following is contemporary Chinese ink painting, a new take on an old tradition by young artists. “Fresh Ink”, a small exhibition of ten artists at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 2010, and a bigger show, “Ink Art”, which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York earlier this month, have attracted much attention in China.


In contemporary art, with its ironies and its multiple readings, Chinese artists test the patience of officialdom. The boundaries are fluid, but most Chinese know how far they can push them. Zhang Peili, the director of the OCAT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shanghai, a well-established private gallery, offers a list of prohibited items: “A show about Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama or the Tiananmen Square uprising; anything that insults our national leaders; or any art that shows private parts.”

最後の記事のタイトルculture vultureはオックスフォードの学習辞典にも載っているほどの単語だったのですね。音の響きが似ている単語なのでキャッチーになっていますね。

Future strategies
Feeding the culture-vultures
What museums must do to satisfy an increasingly demanding public
Dec 21st 2013 | From the print edition

culture vulture
(humorous) a person who is very interested in serious art, music, literature, etc.

culture vulture
(informal) a person considered to be excessively, and often pretentiously, interested in the arts


But there is one shining exception: the century-old Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, which now has a tongue-twisting new name—the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya—that abbreviates to CSMVS. Until recently the CSMVS was as dilapidated as the rest, but today the museum has over 1m visitors a year, a handsome government subsidy and a devoted group of private fund-raisers. What saved it was a decision in 2007 to do things differently. When its energetic director, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, asked his staff what it should be doing, chief among the ideas put forward was to reach out far more, not just to Mumbai city-dwellers who would normally never think of visiting a museum but to other museums around the world. Now the CSMVS has partnerships with the BM, the Getty and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Such international partnerships are about much more than money. Neil MacGregor, the BM’s director, believes that museums can be a force for nation-building and peace. This month his institution sent its famous Cyrus cylinder (pictured) to Mumbai as part of a journey that has already taken it to Iran and America. The 2,600-year-old clay cylinder is covered in cuneiform script proclaiming that Cyrus the Great, the emperor of Persia, would allow anyone who had been imprisoned or enslaved by his predecessors to return home, and that the statues of their different gods could be returned to their original shrines to be freely worshipped. No ruler before Cyrus had done anything like this. This sort of show—about man’s common humanity—captures the public imagination. Museums which can do that still have a bright future.