New museum dedicated to the artist Mu Xin opens in Zhejiang Province, China

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New museum dedicated to the artist Mu Xin opens in Zhejiang Province, China

Mu Xin, born Sun Pu, had a strong affinity for painting, art, literature, and music at an early age. In the 1960s, Mu Xin’s personal cache of twenty volumes of handwritten prose, novels, dramas, poetry, and essays were confiscated and destroyed. Photo: Shen Zhonghai.

WUZHEN.- The new Mu Xin Art Museum held its grand opening ceremony on November 15, 2015 and opened to the public the next day in Wuzhen, China. The Museum is dedicated to preserving the life, legacy, and artistic output of the artist, poet, and writer Mu Xin (1927-2011). Located in the artist’s hometown of Wuzhen—a historic and scenic water-town in the northern Zhejiang Province of China, the Museum is the leading resource on the impact and continued meaning of Mu Xin’s art.

Founded by Chen Xianghong, President of Culture Wuzhen Co., Ltd and supported by Wuzhen Tourism Co., Ltd, the Museum also contextualizes Mu Xin’s work by creating rotating, special exhibitions that examine the impact of others’ artistic practice and philosophy on his work. The Museum is overseen by founding Director, Chen Danqing, who was Mu Xin’s disciple.

Mu Xin, born Sun Pu, had a strong affinity for painting, art, literature, and music at an early age. In the 1960s, Mu Xin’s personal cache of twenty volumes of handwritten prose, novels, dramas, poetry, and essays were confiscated and destroyed. Between 1971 and 1972, when he was held for ten months in solitary confinement, he completed Prison Notes, sixty-six pages that imagined dialogues between himself and other famous thinkers and artists. Exonerated in 1979, he served as Secretary General of the China Arts and Crafts Association before moving to New York in 1982, where he continued to paint and published twelve books of essays, fiction, and poetry in Chinese. In 2001, his solo art exhibition was held at the Yale University Art Gallery and traveled to the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and the Asia Society Museum in New York. Mu Xin moved back to his hometown Wuzhen in 2006 and passed away in 2011.

Mu Xin was shown the designs for this museum before he passed away. In response, Mu Xin murmured with much emotion, ‘wind, water, and a bridge,’ insightfully summarizing the scenery and surroundings. The metaphor of the bridge could not be more fitting considering Mu Xin’s lifelong efforts to synthesize Western and Eastern aesthetics and culture. These words now hang above the entrance of the Museum as a poetic summation of the building itself.

Designed by Hiroshi Okamoto and Bing Lin of OLI Architecture, the new 72,118 square foot (6,700 square meter) museum evokes and celebrates the defining characteristics of Mu Xin’s art. OLI’s Fabian Servagnat, spent a year and a half working on the interior exhibition design and supervising the site. The building is a series of floating rooms that mirror Mu Xin’s creation of space in his multilayered abstract landscapes. The texture of the Museum’s concrete exterior was manipulated to mimic his ink brush watercolor landscapes. The Museum features eight galleries for permanent and special exhibitions with state of the art lighting and exhibition facilities.

“The building’s design is inspired both by Mu Xin’s work and the environment of Wuzhen,” said Hiroshi Okamoto of OLI Architecture. “Wuzhen is a dense, beautiful landscape of centuries-old canals, streets, markets, courtyards, bridges and verandas. This urban fabric creates multiple viewpoints wherever you look. The Museum itself is a landscape of intersecting experiences–a series of cast-in-place colored architectural concrete volumes in varying sectional relationships to the canal on which the Museum is sited.”

Five of the Museum’s eight galleries are permanent galleries dedicated to the life and work of Mu Xin and features approximately 100 paintings and 50 manuscripts created throughout his life, which were carefully selected out of more than 600 paintings and thousands of manuscripts left by the artist. These galleries include the Prison Notes, a selection of his literary works, and an introductory gallery that tells the artist’s life story through the display of objects.

Two other galleries host a series of rotating exhibitions focusing on the impact of other artists’ practice and philosophy on Mu Xin’s own work. The two inaugural special exhibitions focus on:

• Friedrich Nietzsche, whose philosophy Mu Xin studied extensively. This exhibition, titled Nietzsche and Mu Xin, features loans from the Goethe and Schiller Archive and the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, as well as the Nietzsche Documentation Center and the Friedrich Nietzsche Foundation in Naumburg, Germany. Works on display include manuscripts and books, in addition to portraits and a death mask of the philosopher. This is the first exhibition in China on Nietzsche in the more than 100 years since he was first translated into Chinese. A pairing of Nietzsche’s text and compositions titled “I am not a man, I am dynamite,” curated by Dr. Rüdiger Schmidt-Grépály, Director of Kolleg Friedrich Nietzsche, was performed at the grand opening.

• Lin Fengmian (1900-1991), who mentored Mu Xin in his late adolescence. Lin, like Mu Xin, synthesized Western and Chinese painting traditions. Lin Fengmian and Mu Xin features 10 works on loan from the Shanghai Chinese Painting Academy, alongside four works by Mu Xin to examine the impact of Fengmian’s mentorship and friendship.

The eighth gallery is a multi-functional gallery that displays detailed images of Mu Xin’s paintings. The Museum also features a library, auditorium, and café.

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