Top art museums in china

The Top 20 Art Museums In China

China is a place of history, but did you know that art plays a role in their culture too? The main tourist attractions of China are like museums within themselves, but when it comes to art, the country is dotted with actual museums that have been carefully curated to show off the best. From traditional style to more modern displays, China’s art museums won’t disappoint the creatively inclined and the culturally thirsty.

Visiting China anytime soon? Here are the top 20 art museums that you should definitely add to your itinerary.

1) The National Art Museum

The top art museums in China

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Located in Beijing, this is one of the largest art museums in China. It features a permanent collection that is made up of a mixture of contemporary and ancient Chinese works, imperial Chinese art, and Western artworks. The entire museum is four stories and is home to 21 exhibition halls.

The collections that can be found in the museum include:

  • Costumes
  • Lacquer
  • Porcelain
  • Caricature
  • Watercolor painting
  • Chinese New Year picture
  • Traditional picture story
  • Print
  • Sculpture
  • Traditional Chinese painting
  • Oil painting

2) The Central Academy Of Fine Arts (CAFA)

Also located in Beijing, just the building itself is a work of architectural art. As academy is in its name, CAFA is not only a school for artists but also an art museum with a coffee and gift shop for visitors. The school has been open for quite some time and is one of the most prestigious art academies in the country. The six-floor museum was opened more recently and features several collections, some of which include historical Chinese scroll paintings and other rotating exhibits.

3) Himalayas Art Museum

It is also known as the HAM museum and can be found in Shanghai. The building, designed by Arata Isozaki, resembles a cave on the outside, with equally cavernous designs on the inside. The exhibits here are said to be quite unusual compared to the typical art museum. Much of the art is contemporary, and they also host media shows. However, the primary focus of the museum is to express art on an international scale.

4) Sifang Art Museum

This architectural work of art is located in Nanjing and was beautifully designed by Steven Holl Architects. Primarily, this museum displays works of architecture and is surrounded by a preserved forest park. The focus is also on contemporary art, and one of the main goals is to introduce visitors to the latest and greatest in the architectural art world. Every part of a visit to this museum is like an evolving, moving work of art in itself.

5) Today Art Museum

Top art museums in China

Photo Source: China.org

Located in Beijing, this private art museum focuses on contemporary artworks. Completely self-funded and not for profit, the museum seeks to find and display the works of promising young artists both locally and sometimes internationally. The artwork here is unique and visitors can get a glimpse of sculptures, paper art, and oil paintings.

6) Times Museum

Located in Guangzhou, Times Museum is said to be one of the strangest and intriguing in all of China. The focus in on hyper-local artists, with many of them living in the building and the surrounding apartments. The museum is described as reflecting the economic, social, and cultural conditions of the unique Pearl River Delta, and is an example of urbanization in the area. Many of their exhibitions focus on the interaction between the art and the space that it is being shown in.

7) OCT Contemporary Art Terminal

This has been known as one of the top platforms for progressive media arts in China. In fact, the museum has been so popular, that it is now located in three places, Shanghai, Xi’an, and Shenzhen.

8) Red Brick Art Museum

Located in Beijing, this museum shows off China’s ability to create museums that are so architecturally artistic that they rival the art that is shown on the inside. This museum is actually built on top and integrated with sculpted Chinese gardens. And, it offers up rotating exhibits that will bring you to the outskirts of Beijing to see.

9) Rockbund Art Museum

Top art museums in China

Photo Source: Perrotin.com

Also known as RAM, this museum in Shanghai often puts on solo shows by prominent Chinese artists. They put on mixed media art shows and also invite international artists of contemporary style. The museum itself has only been around for a few years, but it is considered to be one of the best places for events and educational programs in the country.

10) Long Museum

This warehouse in Shanghai got its beginnings as a place to house the works of Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian’s collections. While the museum holds an impressive collection of traditional ink paintings and modern Chinese oil paintings, it also exhibits contemporary artworks.

11) The Ullens Center For Contemporary Arts

Located in Beijing, this museum actually has Belgium founders and is considered to be at the forefront of exhibition making around China. Many of the top Chinese artists have had solo shows here as well as some significant curatorial projects like the On/Off exhibition in 2013 by Sun Dongdong and Bao Dong.

12) Shanghai Museum

If you are interested in more ancient art over contemporary styles, the Shanghai Museum is the place to visit. The artwork here dates back to the Neolithic period and all together, the exhibits show off 6,000 years worth of art and history. Some of the works include ink painting, sculpture, calligraphy, various media, ceramics, bronzes, and furniture making.

13) Propaganda Poster Art Center

The top art museums in China

Photo Source: The Righteous Mind

This is one of Shanghai’s more intriguing and underground art museums. Visitors here can see a collection of mass-produced propaganda posters that came out in the 1950s and the 1960s.

14) Nanjing Museum

Located in Nanjing, this museum is quite diverse as it’s full of both artifacts, history, and art. The paintings and calligraphy sections are some of the highlights which date back to the Ming Dynasty.

15) Tibet Museum

For some truly unique works of art in China, visitors should make their way to the Tibet Museum, located in Lhasa. Visitors here can see works of traditional Tibetan architectural style, Buddha statues, imperial jade, printed Tibetan and Sanskrit scriptures, folk art, jewelry, costumes, and handicrafts.

16) Han Meilin Art Museum

This museum is located in Beijing and is one of the largest art collections dedicated specifically to the Han Chinese. The works on display here range from calligraphy and sculptures to painting and larger installations.

17) Beijing Cui Yongping Art Museum

For something a little different, visitors should check out this quirky Beijing Museum of shadow puppetry. The shows are put on by creating paper cut-outs and using a translucent screen. This is best for arts and crafts lovers and those who are interested in seeing a bit of a show.

18) Shanghai Calligraphy Museum

shanghai caligraphy - winter

This museum allows you to learn all about this ancient Chinese art form. View the artifacts and get schooled on how to achieve greatness with this hobby. Then, take a stroll through the museum to see the great works of calligraphy art that are on display here.

19) Tang Dynasty Art Museum

Located in Xi’an, this art museum has an extensive collection of art that is exclusively from the Tang Dynasty. The collection is extensive, and visitors can see artwork, artifacts, and treasures.

20) A Thousand Plateaus Art Space

This art space is located in Chengdu and is committed to displaying contemporary artworks by Chinese artists. It’s a maze of exhibition rooms and also has a section for video screening. They also aim to display works of newer and emerging artists as well. They not only promote and show art, but they also work to sell it, host discussions and workshops about it, and do art consulting.

Your visit to China will probably be full of history, food, and nightlife. However, don’t overlook the outstanding art spaces and quirky underground art museums that can be found all across the country.

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Shannon Ullman

Hey! I'm a published American travel blogger and teacher. My travel writing has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Matador Network and Thought Catalog. I spent over a year living and traveling around China while I taught English there. I have also visited dozens of other countries around the world.