Easy on the Eyes
Shanghai’s flourishing art scene makes it the ultimate destination for culture vultures.
The perfect antidote to run-of-the-mill malls and the surge of high rises, the community vibe of the neighbourhood makes this artistic area even more attractive
Famed for its plump dumplings, historical waterfront and picturesque gardens, Shanghai is appealing for many reasons. Most dynamic of all is its thriving art scene, positioning the city as China’s cultural heart. The Moganshan Art District should be the first stop for art lovers. Once an industrial area, the complex of old warehouses has been transformed into a cultural hub buzzing with galleries, design firms, architectural workshops and quirky cafes. What began as a cluster of humble studios has become the epicentre for all things aesthetic.
One the oldest and most respected galleries is ShangART at 50 Moganshan Road, established in 1996, to shine the spotlight on artists at the core of China’s artistic revolution. Over the years it has fostered relationships with significant creative figures across several generations and presents a wide range of media, including video, ink, painting and photography.
Another must-see gallery is Art Scene Warehouse, housing a fascinating selection of cutting-edge pieces, showcased in spacious surroundings. Featuring the works of emerging Chinese contemporary artists, it provides a unique opportunity to become familiar with promising talent on the rise.
The pragmatic enthusiast may prefer Art Scene Classic, for its smaller, more manageable pieces suited to home display. Renovated in the style of a residence with wood floors and Chinese furniture, the set-up provides buyers with an idea of how the objet d’art will appear in their abode, emphasising the importance of art appreciation, as opposed to simply collecting and storing the works.
Spending an afternoon pouring over exhibitions is a favourite Shanghai pastime. Particularly noteworthy is the Shanghai Art Museum, home of the Shanghai Biennale, China’s most high profile contemporary art event. Situated in the former clubhouse building of the Shanghai Race Club, the prominent clock tower alone is worth a visit.
Boasting an impressive collection of more than 120,000 pieces including bronze, ceramics and calligraphy, the Shanghai Museum houses items of national importance, such as three specimens of a bronze mirror from the Han Dynasty. The Bronze Gallery, Sculpture Gallery and Painting Gallery are definitely not to be missed.
Fans of contemporary art should visit the Doland Museum. Despite its location outside the centre of town, its off-the-wall shows highlight avant-garde local and international artists. Shanghai’s first official venue for modern art explores a spectrum of genres, from American electronic art to an examination of gender issues among the Chinese and traditional Kazak instrumental performances.
In the evening, the best place to continue artistic pursuits is the former French Concession. Make your way to Taikang Lu, where old warehouses have been revamped as boutiques, galleries and cafes. Browse the International Artists Factory, a design and art centre, peppered with shops offering chic bags, home ware and Japanese-style asymmetrical shirts.
The perfect antidote to run-of-the-mill malls and the surge of high rises, the community vibe of the neighbourhood makes this artistic area even more attractive. Key areas of interest include the Deke Erh Art Centre for the city’s colonial architecture photography and Unique Hill gallery, housing a kitsch collection of old Shanghai posters.
Round off the visual feast with a literal one at Thai Gallery, a two-storey restaurant designed to resemble an upscale art space, with light-coloured cement walls, an ultra modern dummy waitor, white patterned partitions and bright art adorning the walls.Colourful contemporary art adorns the walls and each piece is available for purchase.
An apt conclusion to the artistic adventure is unwinding in a luxury accommodation that encapsulates passion for beauty. Pudong Shangri-La, Shanghai, prides itself not only in breathtaking views of the Bund and Huangpu River, but equally stunning artwork. From Shan Shan Sheng’s antique bronze vessels to watercolour paintings by Zhu Dequn, the award-winning hotel provides a visually rich haven, in which to turn in.