The new building – the first art museum on the Lingnan culture with roots in the regions of southern China – will be open to visitors starting on 21 March 2020 with From The Mundane World, the inaugural exhibition curated by Feng Boyi.
Tadao Ando, who has conducted in-depth research on the ancient history of China and Lingnan architecture, has designed the HEM as a gate of access to the culture and regional arts of southern China.
The architect, inspired by the cultural context of Shunde, has brought together various elements, with a particular accent on the use of light.
The new museum takes its name from its founder, He Jianfeng. The term He has multiple meanings, including harmony, balance, luck and union, all concepts addressed by Ando in the architectural and spatial design.
For the design of the HEM Tadao Ando has drawn inspiration from ancient Chinese cosmology and philosophy, from western use of light and from the territory of Lingnan.
The stairwell floods each level and each exhibition space with natural light, creating a sensation of spacious tranquility and harmony, as a symbol of hope. HEM features a double helical staircase placed at the center of the four-story building, capturing light from a large round skylight, a typical feature of the local architecture.
The circular form of the building also links back to the Lingnan tradition: in ancient Chinese cosmology and philosophy the sky was seen as a round divine entity.
All the exhibition levels are circular, with the exception of the square gallery on the ground floor, containing the bookstore and a cafe. There is also a multifunctional space of 300 m2 which can be expanded for events and presentations.
The evocative pond that wraps the exterior of the museum references the historic pavilions on the Lingnan waterfront and symbolizes its geographical position on the Pearl River estuary. Visitors reach the museum along a pathway that suggests a voyage of awareness and tranquility, offering a moment of meditation.
"The idea was to create a museum that sums up the various cultures rooted in southern China, and the influences that have given rise to Lingnan architecture. I have imagined HEM as a point of energy in which all the regional arts, as well as landscape, climate and civilization of Lingnan, can converge. I hope HEM can become the heart of Lingnan culture, not just at Shunde but for all of China," Tadao Ando explains.
The debut exhibition, From the Mundane World, curated by Feng Boyi, examines the relations between man and the environment, and between models of civilization and mass consumption. In particular, the show addresses the frenetic urban transformation taking place in China today.