Inspired by the beauty inherent in every object
The Shanghai Museum is a world-renowned institution for the study and promotion of ancient Chinese art. Its 120,000 strong collection contains everything from ancient bronzes to intricately carved lacquer furniture. Its new site in the Pudong district, across the Huangpu River from the original museum, will be much more than an annexe. Almost twice the size of the Lourve, the new site will allow the museum to expand its activities and programmes and better reflect the ever-growing, constantly evolving world city of Shanghai.
We conceptualised the design for four of its new galleries – Bronze, Paintings, Jade and Ceramics. The beauty of the objects was our constant source of inspiration. We need look no further than their majestic forms and regal colours. Our proposed design was a compliment to their beauty.
Symbolism and materiality
The Ancient Chinese Bronze Gallery becomes a forest of cast forms. An army of displays rise up from the gallery floor, punctuating the space to create a surface which mirrors the worked surface of a bronze vessel. The displays represent moulds, breaking open to reveal the objects inside. The colour palette and materiality takes inspiration from how the artefacts are worked and transformed into a finished product - molten to solid, rough to smooth, reversed, worked, etched, engraved. The tone is one of reverence as the design pays respect to the ritual objects.
Our concept for the Ancient Chinese Jade Gallery evolved around the idea of the spirit within the rock. The gallery centres around an installation designed to appear as if a rock has split apart to reveal its precious jade objects within. Display structures are rough and bumpy, a nod to the untreated rough rock surface, while interpretation and hands on elements are like polished minerals – translucent, smooth, silky.
Soft silks evoke the painter’s brushstroke
The Ancient Chinese Painting Gallery is a story of the painter’s brushstroke. The gallery has a sense of fluidity to it. Installations of silks and papers dance and glide through the space, creating a hypnotic backdrop to the already bewitching objects. Expressive lines, deep pigments and delicate organic blends form the aesthetic and colour palette.
The concept for the Ancient Chinese Ceramic Gallery was Fired Earth, Solid yet Translucent. The design takes its cue from the firing process – the transformation of clay into a material that is increasingly hard, glossy and translucent. Thin as paper, bright as a mirror, tuneful as a bell. Two physical spaces explored the extraordinarily varied ceramics processes and aesthetics. One space evolves around a recreation of an ancient kiln form brought to life with media and surrounded by mass objects displays. The other space takes visitors on a journey of ceramics through time.