Imagine an immense playground with abstract sculptures, hand-knit blankets, colourful foam in the shapes of triangles, circles and squares, a handful of ‘knitting machines’ for kids to make their own rugs with a special thread – we’re in the basement of the freshly opened West Bund Museum
While the museum’s other floors are currently occupied by some of the most important contemporary and modern masterpieces from Paris’s Centre Pompidou
, a large proportion of its ground floor is dedicated solely to activities aiming to cultivate artistic interests for kids between four and ten years old.
The largest space you see when you walk down to the ground level is the Creativity Gallery, which currently displays an interactive installation called Gravity as part of an ongoing project to curate art installations that are specially designed for kids. The exhibition’s theme is set to change every six months.
Photographs: Yang Xiaozhe
Designed by French-Chinese artist Shen Yuan for exclusively for West Bund Museum, Gravity reflects an environmental problem that is also very political – the tragedy of marine pollution. Instead of sending a blunt, in-your-face message, Shen has put together a smart project that requires little reflection but so a lot of hands-on action – everyone is invited to play a part in cleaning up the ocean (and perhaps the world).
After taking off their shoes or putting on shoe covers, parents and their kids are told that they are in a fantasy underwater world. But far from romanticising the ocean, they’re told a bleak truth – the ocean is polluted and there is simply too much rubbish in it as a museum guide points to a pile of empty plastic bottles, packaging and cardboard.
Next, they’re guided towards what looks like a truncated neo-classic pillar wrapped with grey polyester (it is ‘The Filter’). They’re told to lean a bit closer and listen to the sound of sea animals. Then the guide draws their attention to the hand-knit blankets dotting the playground. ‘Isn’t it a bit dirty, the ocean bed?’ the guide asks. ‘How about us making it clean?’ Soon, kids, with the help of the guide and parents, begin knitting simple-patterned rugs and the next you know, hours have passed.