My Covid-19 Period Office Situation

MUSEUM 2050 Dispatches

Pine of No Man’s Land

Yael Zhang

A museum, a pine tree, a large collection of pre-modern Chinese ink art, away from the downtown Shanghai, are all tugged in the corner of Putuo district. Sometimes I feel bad for my friends who had to go out of their way to visit me and the museum, but from the bottom of my heart, I feel happy for them.

As one saying goes, it is the memory that helps us define what time is. Our museum collection contains memories of China in the last 3000 years. Looking back to those memories, with my guidance, everyone was able to slowly reveal an era that they belong to, but unfortunately not so familiar with it.

In the summer first breeze, I moved my office desk out of the museum to the stone under the big pine tree. I needed more space to think freely, just as those scholars in the 13th century resting and creating under the pine trees.

Pic 1: Zhang Daqian, Scholars under the Pine Trees

Pic 2: Me hosting 2 museum guests before the Covid-19

Pic 3: Birds eye view on my working desk under the Pine Tree

Under the tree, I was rethinking the role of curator in the pandemic and decided to launch the museum official IG account(@suningartmuseum) to start telling collections story by weekly posts. The result was rewarding, various art institutions representatives from all over the world reached out to me through the platform; counterparts who located in China expressed strong interest in Suning’s collection and many of them visited and explored the museum. The pine tree becomes everyone’s favourite. That’s when I started the #suningpinetreeshot.

The pandemic has never stopped our museum’s mission to the public service. During the summer vacation, we collaborated with a charity organisation, Art Speaks on an eponymous summer exhibition to introduce a window to connect the children’s artistic creation from the rural area to the local Shanghai audience.

Those 200+ pieces of exhibited artworks, shipped from all over the world, had redefined the role of artist, which was beyond age, living circumstances and education backgrounds. The artists were not able to make it to the exhibition, but they had seen their artworks exhibited in Shanghai through the digital galleries; As for the Shanghai audience, this exhibition has played the starting point for them to give more support on arts education. I felt more responsibilities from the institutional side.

This week, by greeting the annual Shanghai Art Week, we have been installing our new exhibition Jiangnan(江南), which will officially open to the public on 25 November, 2020. Welcome to visit us when you are in Shanghai or follow us on IG @suningartmuseum for future live updates.

Pic 4: ART SPEAKS summer exhibition, 2020, Suning Art Museum, Shanghai

About the Author:

Yael Zhang is Curator and Art Advisor at Suning Art Museum, Shanghai.

(Suning Art museum was founded in 2017, by Chinese tycoon-level enterprise, Suning, where they collected one of the most important traditional ink art collections in the world.)

About the Series:

Museum 2050 has always been about bringing people together through our community’s shared passion for museums and institutional development. As the world slowly and carefully starts reopening, we are checking in weekly with various members of our broader network to share personal reflections, anecdotes and musings about how they and their institutions have been operating in the face of this pandemic. In these incredibly difficult times for all, we hope that these brief vignettes from around the world bring us closer together, and remind us that even when the world stops and museum doors close, we still persevere.