Shai Baitel announced as inaugural artistic director of Modern Art Museum Shanghai
In an exciting announcement which brings a little hope to this bleak, pademic-imposed artistic drought, the Modern Art Museum (MAM) Shanghai has announced Shai Baitel as its inaugural artistic director.
The gallery, which has just opened at the heart of Shanghai’s cultural mile alongside the Huangpu River, has already established itself as a premier institution for contemporary art, offering a forward-thinking global and multidisciplinary approach. MAM is a multifaceted institution, contributing to the education, knowledge and enjoyment of art through a series of exhibitions, artistic collaborations, events and festivals featuring contributors and creatives from all over the world.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, the building has been constructed from a renovated and redesigned coal bunker and now stands as the largest contemporary art museum in Shanghai, measuring over 7,000 square meters. It is set to be a central hub of creativity, sitting right in the heart of the dynamic MAM Riverbank cultural zone and stretching 1.2 kilometres along the Huangpu River just south of the Pudong Central Business District. MAM Riverbank’s state-of-the-art design encompasses not only the architecture of the museum itself: the grounds are also home to an outdoor sculpture park and fine dining restaurant MESS.
Baitel, the fresh face of this impressive new institution, is a creative director with extensive experience in the fields of arts, culture and business in the United States and abroad. Taking on the role of artistic director of the Modern Art Museum Shanghai this year seems a natural progression; he previously worked as an advisor to the museum and curated its successful 2019 exhibition Bob Dylan: Retrospectrum. The show, the first retrospective of Bob Dylan’s visual artworks in the world, was the most comprehensive presentation of his creative life of visual art to date, bringing over 150,000 visitors to MAM.
Before taking on this new position, Baitel co-founded Mana Contemporary, an innovative cultural centre in New Jersey, with affiliated centres in Miami and Chicago. He has also been involved in many high-profile events as an independent creative director, conceiving and realising large-scale productions that incorporate visual content along with choreographed performance art, theatre and film. Baitel’s work has led to important collaborations and built partnerships with the likes of Marina Abramović, Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, Bill Viola, Richard Meier, Steven Klein, the Frederick R Weisman Art Foundation, Shen Wei and Vanessa Beecroft.
Baitel now turns his attention to MAM, and hopes to steer the gallery in a bold and exciting direction in-keeping with its universal and avant-garde ethos. He is committed to delivering a diverse programme that engages Shanghai’s modern and discerning audience, comprised of both local and international visitors. This means giving the spotlight to not only visual art but design, architecture, fashion, photography and performance – it’s a multipronged approach which aims to make the museum accessible and appealing to art lovers across the world.
Baitel sees the high standards expected of the museum not as a scary prospect, but rather a welcome challenge, and plans to ensure its growing global reputation: “The Modern Art Museum Shanghai represents the highest aspirations of a cutting-edge art institution. My vision for MAM isn’t simply to house a collection and present fine art. Instead, MAM is a destination for culturally engaged audiences who can experience exhibitions conceived from their own viewpoint. I look forward to serving the museum’s constituencies and all of Shanghai’s residents and visitors to help grow MAM as a leading institution of contemporary art, design and fashion, that distinguishes itself through providing the audience with an immersive and engaging experience”.
Dr Zhang Xi, President of MAM Riverbank, is excited by the new appointment: “On behalf of everyone at MAM Riverbank I want to warmly welcome Shai Baitel as artistic director of the Museum of Modern Art Shanghai. Aligned with our mission, he is a knowledgeable and innovative art professional who will bring a fresh perspective to MAM to attract the next generation of museum visitors”.
Baitel baptises his new directorship by overseeing the museum’s current exhibition Neo Golden Age, featuring British Neo-Pop artist Philip Colbert and Canadian street artist Trevor Andrew. Running at MAM until 14th March 2021, the show has already welcomed over 30,000 visitors since November 2020. After this, Baitel has a busy schedule ahead: his forthcoming work includes planning for major art presentations of Zaha Hadid and Andy Warhol; a DIOR photography exhibition; and an intriguing project titled From Woodwork to WeChat – Emerging Chinese Artists. At a time when a lot of galleries have been brought to a standstill, this news brings a welcome reminder that a lot of the most affecting art is born from the fires of adversity. Like a museum rising from a disused coal bunker, it allows art fans to have hope that the creative community will adapt to this strange new world and come back stronger than ever.
The editorial unit
Photos: Courtesy of MAM
For further information visit the Modern Art Museum website here.