Why museum partnerships between China and the West are booming

Pompidou, Tate, V&A, LACMA, Palais de Tokyo, you name it. How do these Western museums work with censorship in China? So what is it in China that Western institutions are after? How do they straddle the two?

“Despite the challenges of communication and different organisational cultures, such collaborations offer a tempting template. Chinese museums have embraced foreign expertise as a remedy for their soggy internal structures, and a fast track to global attention and legitimacy. As well as reaching new audiences, Western institutions are eager for curation and loan fees, access to elusive Chinese art collections and a boost to Chinese tourist numbers in their home locations.

Amid continuing tensions between Hong Kong protesters and the pro-Beijing local government, businesses including Cathay Pacific Airlines, America’s National Basketball Association and Apple have faced a stark choice: self-censor or be banned from China.

...Navigating censorship is an inevitable price of showing in China, according to Cosmin Costinas, the executive director of Hong Kong’s politically outspoken non-profit Para Site, which this year entered a curatorial collaboration with Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum. ‘It is a reality of the context,’ he says. ‘To a certain extent one has to adapt to every context, to the sensibilities of the audience and the authorities. It requires a nuanced response.’

Lasvignes confirmed to the New York Times that ‘fewer than five’ works in the first Shanghai exhibition were replaced before the opening, at the request of local officials. In an interview with The Art Newspaper, he said that the Pompidou would ‘try to understand why such works are inappropriate’ while remaining ‘absolutely free in our programme’. Lasvignes added: ‘If we cannot do interesting things anymore in the relationship we have with the Chinese authorities, we’ll stop.’”


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