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Luisa E. Mengoni On the Upcoming V&A Shekou Gallery

Luisa E. Mengoni tells us what we can expect from the future V&A Shekou Gallery and her thoughts on the Shenzhen creative scene. Christie Lee writes.

Luisa E. Mengoni On the Upcoming V&A Shekou Gallery

Top image: Unidentified Acts of Design, presented by V&A during the 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism Architecture

Shenzhen is coming up roses in the cultural realm. Design students and enthusiasts flood the public spaces of the OCAT Contemporary Art Terminal and Loft Area during weekends, while OCAT Shenzhen is consistently playing host to crowd-pleasing shows.

As the 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism Architecture comes to a close, the city’s creatives can look forward to the opening of the Shekou Design Museum in 2017. Developed by China Merchant Group, with the Victoria & Albert Museum signing on as consultant, the design museum will be directed by Ole Bouman.

Marking the first time that the 164-year-old British art and design museum has set up an outpost, the V&A Shekou Gallery will trace the development of modern and contemporary design from the 1990s to the present day. Luisa E. Mengoni, head of the V&A Shekou Gallery, sits down with us for a quick chat.

Luisa E. Mengoni, head of the V&A Shekou Gallery

Was the Unidentified Acts of Design at the 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism Architecture a prequel to what we might expect at the V&A Shekou Gallery?

The two are definitely connected. What [the V&A exhibition] at the UAAB allowed us to do was to dive into the creative community in Shenzhen. Part of our research was to figure out how design practice is related to innovation in Shenzhen. The V&A Shekou gallery will include designs from Europe, America, India, China, Korea and Japan. Aside from bringing international design to China, we also want to feature local designs.

Would the V&A Shekou gallery be building its own collection?

A majority of the objects would come from London. There would be new acquisitions, in Shenzhen and other parts of Asia, but in very small amounts.

Unidentified Acts of Design

Would the architecture of the Shekou Design Museum influence the curatorial direction? Fumihiko Maki’s modernist construct is after all, very different from V&A London’s largely Victorian/Edwardian aesthetics.

Not really. Having said that, I have a lot of respect for what Maki has done with the space. I think the architecture really touches upon what Shenzhen means; there is a wing directed towards the sea, and another towards the inner parts of the town. The large and open plazas will also allow for more public engagement activities.

A museum is reflective of its locale. Given that Shenzhen isn’t as steeped in history and culture as cities like London or Paris, has there been any challenges in that regard?

At the V&A, we’re constantly discussing the differences among Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. While Shenzhen doesn’t boast the historical heritage of Beijing and Shanghai, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its own history. I mean, you [can] trace its development from an agrarian society to an industrial city and presently, a commercial centre. These are all [the] changes that we had hoped to include in the V&A exhibition at the UAAB.

Unidentified Acts of Design

Does this relative lack of historical heritage make doing business more effective?

There is definitely a trend of entrepreneurship here. People are more open to new ideas and designs in this ever-evolving environment.

Speaking of new ideas… the V&A acquired its first 3D printing gun in 2013. That seemed to diverge from general presumptions that people have of museum collections.

3D printing is a trend, as are digital commissions. The V&A has always been a museum that holds a diverse range of objects. When people think of the V&A, British Designs immediately come to mind, but there is so much more happening.

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