By Hart Hagerty
August 20, 2014
Best Museums in Shanghai
Credit: Alex Segre / Alamy

Now that China has firmly asserted itself as a world economic superpower, the government is busy investing billions into China’s future as a modern cultural influencer. According to reports, China is determined: It plans to open 100 museums across the country each year. One government statistic claimed that 390 museums were opened in 2011 alone. Shanghai is equally ambitious, with a five-year plan aiming to transform the city into an artistic hub that competes with Paris and New York. Shanghai is making great strides, having opened three world-class museums in the past three years. Shanghai’s answer to London’s Tate Modern, the Power Station of Art was a $64 million dollar project funded solely by the city government. But not all of the Shanghai’s best museums are bankrolled by Beijing. Shanghai’s newest art institutions like YUZ and Long Museum contain the private collections of billionaire tastemakers. No matter who funds their bottom line, these museums collectively bring Shanghai closer to becoming the modern cultural capital of Asia.

Yuz Museum

YUZ Museum is an ambitious art museum privately financed by Chinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek. Opened in May 2014, YUZ exhibits the billionaire art enthusiast’s private collection of Western and Eastern works considered historic to Chinese contemporary art. The space itself is a masterpiece. It was designed by Japanese architect Sou Fuhimoto, who converted an old aircraft hangar of former Longhua Airport into a main exhibition hall big enough to showcase large-scale “mega works.” One such installation is ‘Olive Tree’ by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who had a retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York.

Long Museum West Bund

Long Museum West Bund is Part Two in the ambitious plan of China’s most prominent art collectors Liu Yiqia and Wang Wei. The billionaire duo fulfilled their vision of ‘one city, two museums’ when they opened the waterfront location 16 months after the first museum in Pudong this spring. Dwarfing its Pudong predecessor, this much-anticipated $43 million dollar institution has over 52,000 square feet of space to showcase their private collection of spectacular Chinese art. The higher the floor, the older the art. The first floor is dedicated to contemporary-realist paintings, the second has classics of the Cultural Revolution, while the third level is home to extremely rare, multi-million dollar antiquities.


MOCA is Shanghai’s contemporary art museum housed in a striking glass building in the heart of People’s Square. While the museum does put on solo exhibitions of international artists, such as enigmatic Japanese artist Kusama Yayoi, the space draws the biggest crowds for hosting corporate-sponsored traveling exhibitions curated by big brands like Pixar, Dior, and Chanel.


Opened in 2010, Rock Bund is a contemporary art space revered as one of the most forward-thinking galleries in the city. Housed in the 1932 former headquarters of the Royal Asiatic Society with a towering Art Deco edifice, the building has six floors of minimalist exhibition space restored and reimagined by David Chipperfield. Rockbund hosts regular exhibitions by China’s most talked-about contemporary artists like Cai Guo Qiang, Zheng Fanzi, and Zhang Huan and prominent international artists, such as Bharti Kher.