In the past ten years, the global cultural landscape has, quite literally, undergone some dramatic new developments. In what is often referred to as the “museum boom,” China alone has constructed over 3,500 museums (the New Yorker calculates that at points, China was essentially building a new museum every day between 2002 and 2013). Meanwhile, institutional mainstays around the world have been undergoing extreme home makeovers to the global tune of $8.9 billion dollars from 2007 to 2016. The 2016 expansion of the San Francisco MOMA alone raised $305 million dollars, expanding its gallery space threefold, and receiving a facelift worthy of the word "contemporary."
While most discussion of this rapid institutional expansion has been focused around China, recent high profile, international developments like the Louvre Abu Dhabi, South Africa’s Zeitz MOCAA, and Indonesia’s MACAN seem to demonstrate that the boom is expanding. Ever eager to host an international competition whose prompt is to, ostensibly, design the most outlandishly futuristic building that is architecturally possible (also, who can use the most glass?), here are nine extraordinary contemporary art museums set to open in the next three years. Looming just over the cultural horizon, these institutions will be the newest additions to a museum boom that’s rapidly changing who, what, where, and how we see art around the world:
West Bund Art Museum
Where: Xuhui Waterfront Public Open Space, Shanghai
When: End of 2018
Rededicating itself to the late 1950's Communist party slogan, "every county must have its museum, every commune its exhibition hall," in 2002, the Chinese government announced a goal so ambitious, it's borderline absurd: to build one thousand museums by the year 2015. Not only did they surpass that goal by a large margin—by 2013, China had already built over 1,500 new institutions—but now, three years after their projected end date, the government is still building. One of these new developments is the West Bund Art Museum. Part of a $3-billion-dollar project to turn the former industrial strait along Shanghai's Huangpu River into a "cultural corridor," the David Chipperfield-designed museum is scheduled to open by the end of this year.
While China's developments are undeniably impressive, many critics of China's tremendous museum boom point out the fact that just because the building exists doesn't mean the culture does. A strong antithesis to the prevailing "if you build it, they will come" attitude, what most of these new museums have in form, they are severely lacking in content and infrastructure. One possible salve to this dilemma is bringing in some outside help—and who better, in the case of art, than the French? As part of a long-term cultural cooperation project between France and China, the Centre Pompidou will be stationing themselves in the West Bund museum for the next five years, as its Shanghai outpost. The cooperation will also allow for free exchange of collections between the two institutions, and regular exchange programs, focusing on training employees in "international museum operation and management."
Where: West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong
While Hong Kong has an active and rapidly growing international gallery scene, what's strikingly lacking is any semblance of a contemporary art museum. That, however, is all set to change. Brought to you by the same team that designed 2000 and 2016 renovations of the Tate Modern, Hong Kong's M+ museum will be designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. Designed as an upside-down "T," the horizontal plane of the building innovatively envelopes the museum's underlying railway line that bisects the site while its horizontal tower features an LED facade that dramatically displays artists' moving image works across the harbor.
Housing over 180,000 square feet of exhibition space, three cinemas, a lecture hall, performance spaces, a public roof terrace, and all the accompanying gift shops and restaurants, M+ will be one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual culture in the world. If that weren't impressive enough, M+ is only a part (albeit a keystone part) to Hong Kong's larger cultural vision—the development of the West Kowloon Cultural District. Spanning nearly 100 acres of reclaimed waterfront property, this massive ongoing development project will become one of the largest cultural quarters in the world. Apart from the M+ museum, the district will also feature a public art park, performing arts theater, and a center entirely devoted to the art of Xiqu (Chinese opera).
The Bauhaus Museum Dessau
Where: Dessau, Germany
Can you believe that it's taken one hundred years for the world's second-largest Bauhaus collection to get its own permanent home? Opening on the centenary anniversary of the iconic design school, the Bauhuas Museum Dessau will be the first time many works will be able to be properly presented. Designed by Barcelona-based architect González Hinz Zabela (of addenda architects), the museum is designed, essentially, as a building within a building—"a soaring steelwork block in a glass envelope." While the upper exhibition floors will offer visitors a hermetic, meditative "black box" for viewing the works, the ground floor will be entirely transparent, offering an open, inviting platform for rotating exhibitions and events.
Beirut Museum of Art
Where: Beirut, Lebanon
Despite sharing a border with a war-torn Syria, a subsequent refugee crisis, and political paralysis, Lebanaon has not been exempt from the global influx of museums. The capital city of Beirut has more than half a dozen museum projects in development as of last year, including a Beirut City Museum, reimagined by the world-renowned Renzo Piano. The upcoming Beirut Museum of Art (BeMA for short), designed by Paris-based Lebanese architect Hala Wardé, is a slender, 12-story tower that dominates the cityscape. Chosen by an esteemed jury comprising of Lord Palumbo, Lord Rogers, and the late Zaha Hadid, the design was selected as "a totemic tower [that would] act as a beacon, evocative of the historical structures of treasury, lighthouse, outlook tower, belvedere, and campanile."
Drawing from a collection of over 2,300 works from the early 1900s to 2015, many of the artists featured are Lebanese, creating a home venue for a contemporary arts community that often goes overlooked. The museum's property was donated by the Université Saint-Joseph, a pioneering French university that, in 1977, opened its visionary Institute of Islamo-Christian Studies, and in 2010, developed Lebanon's first Masters program in Art Criticism and Curatorial Studies.
The Main Museum
Where: Downtown Los Angeles, California
If you've seen Black Panther, you know that this upcoming Los Angeles museum looks like it's straight out of Wakanda. If you've been to Los Angeles, you know that, unlike many of the locations on this list, the city is not lacking in cultural institutions. The Main Museum, however, offers something quite different from its more established neighbors. Declaring itself as a non-collecting institution, the Main Museum's focus will be on fostering and developing local artists—instead of centering itself around a collection, the Main Museum will be focused around a residency program. Right now, the program is in its beta form, and titled accordingly. A space for testing and learning in anticipation of the creation of the full Main Museum, Beta Main is the developing heart and soul of what's to come. Past programs include "From the Frontlines: A Conversation with L.A. Womxn of Color Activist Leaders," "Native Women's Voices through Poetry," and a ten day event staged by artists Suzanne Lacy and Andrea Bowers.
Designed by the locally-based firm Tom Wiscombe architecture, the museum will be built in conjunction with the pre-existing historic Hellman Building and Farmers Merchants Building. With over 40,000 square feet of exhibition space, the museum will also feature a rooftop sculpture garden, an ampitheater, and (of course) a restaurant.
Pudong Art Museum
Where: Pudong New Area, Shanghai
Formerly the site of the 2010 World Expo, Shanghai's southwestern Pudong district is no stranger to extravagant cultural monuments. Already home to the public China Art Museum Shanghai, and the private Minsheng Museum, Pudong is currently slated to become yet another up-and-coming cultural epicenter in Shanghai, along with the current West Bund district (see the forementioned West Bund Art Museum). The year 2020 is scheduled to unveil some particularly exciting new institutions, including the Pudong Art Museum.
Designed by the famed French architect Jean Nouvel (he is responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the unavoidably phallic Torre Glòries in Barcelona), the highly anticipated Pudong Art Museum will be a relatively tame four-story white granite building with two large glass wall sections, opening out onto the Xuhui river. The museum itself will house mostly Chinese artworks, both traditional and contemporary.
Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
Where: Expo Park, Los Angeles
Were the home of Star Wars director George Lucas' museum of narrative art be any less futuristic, we would be profoundly disappointed. Thankfully, with the help of Chinese architect Ma Yansong, the $1 billion privately funded project, set to open in 2121, genuinely looks like it will, at any moment, lift off from the surface of the Earth and launch itself into hyperspace. We just hope it'll take us along with it.
Celebrating the art of visual storytelling, the museum aims to be a "barrier free museum where artificial divisions between 'high' art and 'popular' art are absent." From illustration, to comics, to painting, to film, video games, and beyond, the wide-ranging, eclectic scope of the Lucas Museum is an exciting ode to the power of narrative. Taking from Lucas' own collection as its starting point, the museum's holdings include works by Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer, and Norman Rockwell, alongside Andy Warhol, Zaha Hadid, Pixar, Walt Disney, and props, set designs, and costumes galore.
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