Journey to the Dark Ⅱ / Yang Yongliang / MGM “Hua Yuan” exhibition
These days it is hard to walk around the city without stumbling upon an art piece (not complaining!). Almost every integrated resort hosts a major art exhibition, art installations are scattered throughout the city, and museums present collaborations with other art institutions in China and around the world. With Art Macao, the city takes a gigantic leap into becoming a new art capital of Asia. An ambitious statement? Not exactly.
Macau’s Art Background
What always distinguished Macau is its unique fusion of cultures. The combination of West and East gives the city its personality and has attracted curious souls from other countries for centuries. The influence of Western art and culture started with the settlement of Portuguese merchants and missionaries who brought their traditions to Macau, a gate to unknown East Asia. Back in the olden days, the main contractor for art was the church, so with the Portuguese traditions came religious art that you can now see on the iconic facade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s, in churches and at museums.
The institution that became the central platform for Macau cultural and social life was Dom Pedro V Theatre, one of the first western-style theaters in East Asia and the first-ever in China. At the time, this theater was the place to go to for cultural recreation. Today, it retains its role and is still fully functional, regularly hosting music performances.
In the early days, the Chinese population living on the other side of the city wall, were building up their own traditions, folklore and aesthetics. Eventually, the wall disappeared, the borders between cultures blurred and the Chinese and Portuguese communities blended together. Many other settlers from different corners of the globe have given their fair share as well, contributing to the vibrant melting pot of diverse cultures that is Macau. Such a fascinating fusion of cultures is sure to inspire and one can spot the influence of both cultures in artworks of local artists.
To provide a stage for artists and initiate an intercultural exchange, Macau has been hosting significant art events on an annual basis. One of them is the Macao International Music Festival, going for 32 years strong, that brings renowned artists from all over the world performing music ranging from opera buffa to powerful Chinese music. Then, there is the Macao Arts Festival that celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019. Every year, theater performances, musical concerts and other activities under the aegis of Macao Arts Festival bring new colors to the city and help local artists grow and shine.
The Macau Art Scene
One of the greatest elements of Macau’s art scene from a visitor’s point of view is that all of the art museums and galleries do not charge any entry fees. Even the Macao Museum of Art welcomes visitors free of charge! It is a true gift for art lovers, as the museum has been bringing in extraordinary exhibitions. Among them, is the retrospective of famous Xu Bing and collections of Chinese art that you can hardly see anywhere else outside of China, such as the Art Macao pre-event “Beauty in the New Era” exhibition.
Some of the most impressive contemporary art pieces belong to integrated resorts, so anyone can enjoy them. In fact, integrated resorts play a huge role in the development of the art scene in Macau. Many if not most of them have their own permanent collection of art that they change up from time to time. Among the most outstanding collections are those of Wynn Palace, MGM Cotai, SJM and, of course, City of Dreams’ Morpheus. Additionally, some integrated resorts even have galleries to host temporary exhibitions.
Wynn Macau Limited invested a significant amount into their art collection–US$150 million to be precise. This is how they could stylishly highlight the floral art theme of the resort with Jeff Koons’ Tulips sculpture, moving installations by Preston Bailey and Qing Dynasty porcelain vases. Then there is Morpheus which has every right to be called a unique architectural landmark. Moreover, Morpheus hosts a number of art pieces, one of them by world-famous KAWS, an American artist that have recently collaborated with a number of brands, from Dior to Uniqlo. Being one of the properties that engages with the art scene the most, MGM curates exhibitions in their own galleries and sponsors Hong Kong’s Art Basel. After its grand opening in 2018, MGM Cotai manifested itself as a serious contributor to the city’s art scene. Spectacle, a colossal atrium with LED screens around its perimeter showcases digital art nonstop. Undoubtedly, this has started a new era for digital art in Macau.
The list goes on and you can learn more about art in the city in our Ultimate Macau Art Guide. Contemporary art blends perfectly with Macau’s cultural context–a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cultures, colonial and Asian architecture, local traditions and art. All of this, seasoned with economic growth, creates fertile soil for Asia’s new art capital.
In the last few years, Macau has taken steps towards reaching their goal of becoming an international tourism city. The new direction implies promoting the city’s non-gaming sides and making it a cultural center. Some monumental actions had to be taken; something unprecedented and mindblowing. This is how Art Macao was born. Even if we’re still in the thick of it, we can safely say that this is the city’s most ambitious and comprehensive art event. Enveloping Macau for five whole months, it includes various exhibitions of classic and contemporary art, outdoor installations, musical and theatrical performances, and festivals. The mega art event has brought big names to Macau praised by the global art community. The works of renowned artists such as Robert Indiana, Yang Yongliang, Caroline Cheng are showcased in the same galleries with local artists.
Art Macao shows that our city is capable of hosting an art event of such a level. But most importantly, it heavily impacts local artists, especially young local artists. The excellent chance to participate in an event that has all the makings of becoming iconic in Asia, artistic and cultural exchange and the opportunity to put their names on the international art scene–all these factors are long-term investments in the future of Macau art scene. P.I.B.G., Leong Wansi, Konstantin Bessmertnyy, João Ó, and Rita Machado have become artists well known in Macau. By participating in the international art conferences and biennales, they build up a name for themselves and also the places they represent. Surely, Art Macao will become a new milestone both for the local artists and the city.
Having all these impressive events occurring in the city means that it will have to evolve in order to handle the growing interest. Infrastructure development has to keep up or rather, outpace the development of arts and culture. Fortunately, the city’s infrastructure is developing and becoming more tourist-friendly as the flow of tourism increases. Examples include the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge which eases travel within cities. Free shuttles, public buses, and the taxi service also help tourists conveniently move around. The new light rail transport operated by MTR is soon to be opened as well. Being able to provide space for numerous art events in the city of 32.9 km2 is truly remarkable!
Art Macao focuses on curated events for the general public, planning to make it an annual occasion and creating new art events in the near future. Thus, it has all the potential to steal the show as long as the pace of art reforms and novelties are kept up with.
The major players in the Macau economy seem to be on the same page with the city officials in making grandiose art plans. For instance, Wynn Macau Limited has recently announced its plan to build an expansion to Wynn Palace, Crystal Pavilion complex, a project by the legendary American Robert A.M. Stern. The new complex set to be built by 2024 will feature an art museum and immersive theater space. We are sure more plans of a similar scale are yet to be unveiled, elevating Macau’s art scene to greater heights and putting it on the same page with art capitals of Asia like Singapore, Beijing, and Tokyo. Such exciting times ahead!