Discover why Shanghai is where it’s at for art

Discover why Shanghai is where it’s at for art

Move over Beijing. Shanghai’s burgeoning art scene is turning the city into a must-visit destination for contemporary culture.

West Bund art walk

While Beijing long held the position of China’s cultural capital, Shanghai has recently risen as a strong contender for the top spot. At the heart of the change is West Bund, a riverfront art hub in the Xuhui District hosting an array of galleries and museums dedicated to contemporary art and culture by local and international talents.

Covering 11.4 kilometres of shoreline, the former industrial site has been transformed since 2011 into a lush outdoor area with jogging and biking tracks, outdoor climbing walls and green spaces for picnics, followed by a cluster of museums and galleries. The area’s industrial past is still visible in some of the main attractions of this “cultural corridor.” A former aircraft factory has been converted into the light and airy West Bund Art Center exhibition space, while the bold and arresting concrete colossus of Long Museum West Bund (pictured) was once a coal-loading point.

2 x Gallery-hopping

Cultured French Concession
Known for its hip boutiques and leafy streets, the quirky former French Concession hosts a number of independent galleries. One of them is Capsule Gallery set in a 1930s garden house and specialising in exhibiting international and Chinese contemporary artists.

Up-and-coming Jing’an
The trendy Jing’an district is emerging as one of Shanghai’s most exciting contemporary art hubs. One of the neighbourhood’s hotbeds for up-and-coming art is ART Labor Gallery with its unusual modifiable gallery space and exhibitions by both emerging and established artists.

Young talents of M50

While West Bund boasts the high-end of Shanghai’s contemporary art, a grittier and more organic alternative can be found at M50 (short for Moganshan Road 50). This buzzing artistic neighbourhood located in the labyrinthine space of former textile warehouses and factory buildings hosts galleries and studios by up-and-coming Chinese artists. With free galleries, regularly changing exhibitions, and Shanghai’s famous graffiti wall, M50 mostly attracts a younger crowd but makes an exciting and vibrant visit for anybody looking for a convenient gallery crawl or a great spot to see or buy contemporary art by emerging talents.

Pop culture vs. politics

What’s shaping Shanghai’s emerging arts scene today? Misha Maruma, founder of the art & design platform CNCREATE, shares his insights.

1. “Shanghai has a reputation as a city for eating and drinking, and when you go out, you go clubbing. Now that seems to be changing with more people doing sports or viewing art.”

2. “The contemporary art scene here is still very young but it has grown a lot during the two years I have been involved with CNCREATE. Today there are also more opportunities for people from different nationalities coming together.”

3. “Today’s young generation of artists seem to be more influenced by popular culture than politics. When people have grown up in this kind of political vacuum, it means that they are influenced by other things, for example social media, Korea, or cartoons.”


Text and photos Amanda Soila