Welcome to the neighbourhood
The centre is part of the West Bund Cultural Corridor, which aspires to become China’s museum mile and is home to the Yuz and Long museums; a branch of ShanghArt Gallery is also due to open. The inaugural show, Photography from the 20th Century (until 22 July), features images from the collection of Atlanta- and Shanghai-based Jin Hongwei, a former photo editor at Shanghai Pictorial and a stakeholder in the photo agency Sipa Press.
The 500 sq. m building was designed by the US architectural firm Johnston Marklee and built in 2013 for the inaugural West Bund Architecture and Contemporary Art Biennale. “After 2014 they didn’t know what to do with it,” Liu says. Xuhui District mayor Sun Jiwei offered it to him as a studio; instead, he converted it into a photography exhibition space. The small space allows for things like proper climate control, absent in many larger institutions.
West Bund “offers very competitive rents to most of their tenants and also offers support on various levels—for instance, organisational—helping us to liaise with various government bodies, helping to fund various aspects of our opening”, says Rebecca Catching, SCoP’s Canadian-born director. Sponsorship comes from the technology firm Simtek and MEM, a luxury marketing company working with Art Basel in Hong Kong.
The centre will divide its exhibitions between non- and for-profit shows, supplemented by book and print sales. The commercial shows “must have an intrinsic value to the public”, Catching says. “What happens when museums don’t have enough money is that they end up taking mediocre shows that are funded by some government body, gallery or collector or, something which is very common in China, actually renting space out to interested parties. We would rather have people know that we are a hybrid space than have to make those kinds of compromises.”