Multimedia Exhibition “MADLANDS,” Co-Created by Visionary Artist and Composer Yang Bao ’15, ’17 MM, Opens at Long Museum in Shanghai

Left: Yang Bao ’15, ’17 MM; right: Yang Bao's “Infinity Tower” sound sculpture within the MADLANDS exhibit

Since completing his studies in Piano Performance at New England Conservatory, Yang Bao ’15, ’17 MM has built a thriving creative career as an installation artist, filmmaker, pianist, and composer whose art is having a worldwide impact. Bao’s exceptional interdisciplinary creative projects, notably his sound installations, have earned him accolades and collaborations with massive brands, including commissions from Dior, Louis XIII, and Opus One Winery. On May 11, the Long Museum in Shanghai, China, will open MADLANDS, an exhibition created by Bao and his partner Wa Liu, featuring a new body of multimedia works. 

Yang Bao, “Superstar”
Yang Bao, “Superstar”

MADLANDS will include Bao’s large-scale stainless steel and 24k gold sound sculptures, oil paintings, and mixed media works. “Inspired by our extensive travels and field research, we delve into the complex symbiotic relationships of the more-than-human world through interdisciplinary collaboration and individual expressions,” Bao said about the exhibition. “Envisioned as a multi-sensory experience, the exhibition invites audiences into the futuristic Madlands of adventures and possibilities where diverse sensibilities and lifeways coexist and entangle in a vast and complex ecological network. Here, a small catalyst may precipitate a cascade of events, propelling us toward an unpredictable future that unfolds in nonlinear progression.”

One of the pieces in the MADLANDS exhibition is “Superstar,” a 24-karat gold-coated stainless steel sound sculpture inspired by the piano. The sculpture vibrates with sound waves, amplifying the bodily energy of sound. Within this sculpture, “a chance-based matrix of sounds and reverberations composes an unpredictable symphony that mirrors the sound of the universe—sometimes discordant, sometimes harmonious.” 

"My hope for visitors is to experience a sense of perspective change both emotionally and visually," said Bao. "My 'Infinity Music' series aims to allow the sculptures to compose their own music that is never ending, never repeating, while forming their own conversation. Each sculpture first begins as a series of musical themes, then comes the form, structure and material for the sculpture itself. So, in a way, I hope to materialize music in its physical form, through which the visitors can see the sound while hearing the visuals."

The luxury international fashion house Dior is the sole sponsor for the MADLANDS exhibit, and this is not the first time Yang Bao has collaborated with the brand. In November 2022, Dior commissioned Bao and Wa Liu to create a handcrafted, 24-karat gold-plated sound installation called “Handle Me” along with new music, “Lady Dior Mixtape,” for the fashion house’s international traveling exhibition “Lady Dior as Seen By.” Designed by Bao, the sound sculpture, made to look like a boombox, sits within a soundproof glass chamber. Powerful sound waves drive its subwoofer to “pulse like a beating heart,” while multiple layers of golden rings amplify the pulses and sound waves, creating their own music based on the vibrations. 

Bao and Wa Liu were also recently commissioned by French audio specialist Devialet, for whom they designed a special edition speaker called Phantom 1, created to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Dragon. Bao described the Phantom as being akin to a musical instrument. “I feel that the Phantom is visually fascinating,” he said in an interview for Wallpaper. “Its appearance, the weight, the shape of the speakers – it almost has a personality.” 

Along with his profound success as an installation artist, Bao’s compositions have received notable recognition. In 2023, Opus One Winery premiered his piece Sol One for piano and orchestra. The site-specific composition “imagines humans as an interplanetary species exploring the profound connections we share with nature, our planet, and our own existence.” It was inspired by Bao’s “Infinity Music” concept, a common theme in most of Bao’s works through which “compositions multiply and evolve based on time and chance, transforming landscapes and architectures into ever-morphing soundscapes.”

Yang Bao, “Red Crescendo”
Yang Bao, “Red Crescendo”

While he has had immense success as an artistic visionary (recognized as one of the "Most Influential Young Artists" by Forbes China),  Bao is also a supremely talented classical pianist. He has performed in renowned venues, including the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and the Lincoln Center in New York City. His recent classical concerts include Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the China Philharmonic Orchestra.

While at NEC, Bao studied with faculty members Bruce Brubaker and Wha Kyung Byun. “At first, I knew Yang Bao as a highly gifted virtuoso pianist with a genuine ability to engage audiences emotionally. His playing can be thrillingly dramatic,” said Brubaker of his former student. “In recent years, he has composed music and is creating visual art with the same intensity and beauty that I experienced in his piano playing.”

"My study at NEC with both Ms. Byun and Bruce has taught me the importance of being curious and always in search of something more," said Bao. "All my work originates from the piano and music itself; for me, they are always connected and speak the same language. My time at NEC is precious. My friends and teachers gifted me with the most special time."

MADLANDS will be open at the Long Museum in Shanghai from May 11-July 21, 2024. Learn more about Yang Bao here. 

All my work originates from the piano and music itself; for me, they are always connected and speak the same language.
Yang Bao ’15, ’17 MM