Two weeks ago when I was in Shanghai, a rainy afternoon provided me with an opportunity to visit a unique museum quite unlike anything you would expect to find in China’s capital of commerce. Built in a re-purposed factory in the little-known Baoshan District, Shanghai Museum of Glass (SHMOG – 上海玻璃美术馆) was opened in spring 2011 and is based around the theme of glass as both art and science.
The striking façade of the museum is made up of hundreds of enamelled glass tiles inscribed with glass-industry terms in ten languages. Imported from Germany, the tiles light up at night to create an extraordinary pattern.
Internally the former glass bottling factory consists of two buildings joined by a glass atrium with the lower floor being dedicated to the history and usage of glass, and the upper a stunning exhibition space. The structure of the original building has been preserved, providing hints of its previous life.
Much of the interior is covered in black lacquered glass with another brightly lit ‘glass house’ suspended in the centre.
Inside the walls are lined with shelves packed with mirrored glass bottles which reflect light off their cylindrical surfaces in every direction.
The various permanent exhibition pieces are all interesting in their own right, each demonstrating a unique style and technique of construction.
I particularly liked those pieces which utilised glass in its raw form without any fancy adornments – simple, minimal, and truthful.
My favourite piece was this polished glass cube with sculpted cutaways and a dye-like blue pigmentation. How it was made I have no idea.
It struck me that the museum had far more of international quality than you would normally find in China – a good sign of things to come.
In a workshop nearby the main building the museum also runs ‘hot glass performances’ where visitors get a chance to see glass objects being made in front of them.
The museum is supposed the be the centrepiece of a planned glass, art, research and technology park to be branded ‘G+ Park’ (likely named before Google’s social network!). The trip to Shanghai’s outskirts to visit the museum is well worth the visit.