Art museums ignite a new urban spark to put cities on the global map

New art museum projects are being led by both the private and public sectors, from private collectors and businesses, to the real estate sector and city authorities. And the way we experience museums is also changing, to become increasingly about engaging and participating, from an artistic, social and educational standpoint.

What does an art museum bring to a scheme or to a city?

The art museum has the power to:

  • Boost a city’s brand as a destination.
  • Make cities more attractive to live, work and play.
  • Create ‘cultural hubs’ to attract visitors from home and abroad.
  • Bring a new heartbeat to a district.
  • Create social cohesion, especially on a neighbourhood level, and deepen local cultural identity. For example, The Main Museum in Downtown Los Angeles.
  • Transform vacant properties, such as the work by artist Theaster Gates on Chicago’s South Side.

Culture identified as a key driver in CBRE report

Culture, of which art is a key part, together with music, food and architecture, is one of three key drivers for a successful city in 2040, as identified by the CBRE report Our Cities, Knowledge for the future, released this October. The other two drivers are governance and innovation.

Amanda Clack, Managing Director, Advisory, CBRE, writes: “Culture is perhaps the element of a buzzing city that is most overlooked, but is possibly the most beneficial to happy and healthy citizens … The shared identity and customs that form part of a city’s culture help to forge a sense of place and self. This will become increasingly important as social polarisation increases, and cities have to strive for unity and inclusion.”


The new approach: art & culture fused with events & lifestyle

In London, Coal Drops Yard opened its 100,000 sq ft new shopping and lifestyle district in the first week of November under the label: ‘Stores. Dining. Culture.’ The scheme, designed by Heatherwick Studio, is part of the regeneration of King’s Cross by developer Argent.

The idea behind Coal Drops Yard is that culture is important in making places human, and hence attractive.  There is a private art gallery and art installations, albeit no big global art museum. However, the scheme sits next to world-renowned Central Saint Martins art and design college, with its own Lethaby Gallery exhibiting work of students, staff and alumni.

Heatherwick Studio also worked on the award-winning Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, which opened in 2017 in the Silo District of the mixed-use Victoria & Alfred Waterfront – another example of how art is part of a new seamless, flexible world, where connection and cross-pollination of spaces and uses is central to the idea of urbanism.

As architect Ole Scheeren says with regards to the Guardian Art Center in Beijing, which opened as the world’s first custom-built art auction house in 2017: “The Guardian Art Center is … a Chinese puzzle of interlocking cultural spaces and public functions that fuse art and culture with events and lifestyle.”



The 56,000 sq m Guardian Art Centre, designed by Büro Ole Scheeren, is a development by Beijing Huangdu Propety Development Company Ltd. Close to the Forbidden City, the centre offers galleries, restaurants, events spaces, a hotel and integrated public transport infrastructure.

Photo credit: Buro-OS


How art needs to follow the path of successful retail

To become a destination, an art museum needs the same successful marketing mix as for a retailer. Using the four-box retail matrix created by Wharton Professor Barbara Kahn in her book The Shopping Revolution, a well-performing art museum is likely to be strong on ‘brand’ and ‘experiential’ and “good enough” on ‘low price’ and ‘frictionless’, while constantly raising the bar in all four areas.

Increasingly urban projects are not so much about creating areas for ‘retail, leisure, offices and residential’, but about using ‘buildings, spaces, infrastructure and objects’ to create engaging, human places for people to shop, live, work and play, with the art museum being one of the ingredients. Art is no longer just for art’s sake.

Selection of new art museums opening in 2019


London & New York

The privately run museum of photography Fotografiska Stockholm is expanding globally to open two new museums in 2019:



Fotografiska London has pre-leased 89,000 sq ft of The White Chapel building, in Whitechapel, from developer Derwent London.  Fotografiska London will be the UK’s largest dedicated photography gallery, able to show up to seven exhibitions at a time with just one ticket entry. The museum will open in autumn 2019, with two top-level restaurants offering sustainable cuisine, and a café and bar.




Fotografiska New York has leased the 45,000 sq ft Church Mission House, a landmark building on Park Avenue, through a deal done with RFR Realty, whose co-founder Aby Rosen is an art buff. The museum’s concept is to be an “international melting-pot” combining “world-class photography and an avant-garde restaurant with a buzzing bar scene, learning academy and modern conversation hub”, as well as “nudging society towards more sustainable habits”.




Bourse de Commerce: François Pinault, founder of the Kering luxury brands group, and owner of Christie’s auction house, is transforming the former Paris stock exchange building to house his Pinault Collection of contemporary art. Bourse de Commerce, with Japanese architect Tadao Ando working on the project, will offer 3,000 sq m of exhibition space. It is close to the Louvre and Les Halles shopping centre. As part of the deal with the city authorities, the art foundation will restore the building in exchange for a 50-year lease.



GES-2: The first phase of the GES-2 museum, a project by the V-A-C Foundation, is due to open in autumn 2019. Established by Russian businessman Leonid Mikhelson, the V-A-C Foundation is renovating an early 1900s power station with the help of Renzo Piano Building Workshops. The 20,000 sq m space is designed for contemporary culture, and divided into three poles: the Welcoming pole, the Exhibitions pole and the Education pole. GES-2 is on ‘Red October’ island, opposite the Kremlin.



National Museum of Qatar: This new national museum, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, offers 53,000 sq m of space next to the royal palace of the former Emir, at the southern end of Doha’s Corniche. The museum, part of the Qatar National Vision 2030, is due to open December 2018. Jean Nouvel also designed the Louvre Abu Dhabi.


Hong Kong

M+: designed as one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual art in the world, M+ is administered by the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and is next to the new Art Park on the Hong Kong waterfront. With architects Herzog & de Meuron and Farrells working on the project, M+ has 17,000 sq m of exhibition space, cinemas, lecture theatre, museum shop, performance spaces, café, public roof terrace and a library, archive and study centre.



Centre Pompidou Shanghai: the state-owned West Bund Group signed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre Pompidou in Paris to open Centre Pompidou Shanghai in the new 25,000 sq m West Bund Art Museum, designed by David Chipperfield. The museum is planned to be located in Shanghai West Bund, a 9.4 sq km waterfront district made up of the West Bund Culture Corridor, the Museum Mile, the West Bund Media Port, Shanghai Dream Center, among other projects. Shanghai West Bund is projected to become a major culture and art cluster in Asia by the end of 2020.


Opening highlights 2018


MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM teamLab Borderless: a 10,000 sq m visual arts gallery and En Tea House in Tokyo Bay. The museum is a joint venture between Mori Building property management company and artist collaborative teamLab. Mori Building offered the space to teamLab, represented by Pace Gallery, in order to draw an international crowd to the Odaiba shopping and entertainment district on a manmade island renowned for its Daikanransha Ferris wheel.

Photo credit: teamLab



V&A Dundee: the first V&A outpost outside London. Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the building, with a floor area of 8,500 sq m overlooks the river Tay. The V&A Dundee is a project put together by Design Dundee Ltd, a partnership of the V&A, Dundee City Council, Scottish Enterprise, the University of Dundee and Abertay University. The museum is part of a 30-year development of the city’s waterfront.



Amos Rex Art Museum: a futuristic, underground space built as part of the regeneration of the Lasipalatsi 1930s retail & leisure ‘Glass Palace’.  The museum, with 2,200 sq m of exhibition space, is designed by local practice JKMM and privately funded by the Konstsamfundet association.


The views in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Reed MIDEM.

Photo credit @Britus


About Author

Georgina Power

Georgina Power is a freelance Communications Consultant and Editor. Her previous positions include: Head of Corporate Communications at McArthurGlen Group, European PR Manager at Cushman & Wakefield and a freelance journalist for EuroProperty.

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