I t’s all eyes on Shanghai this week as the city’s annual art season returns, led by ART021 and West Bund Art & Design – Shanghai’s foremost contemporary art fairs – and the government-backed Shanghai International Artwork Trade Month (SIATM), which was initiated in 2019 offering lowered tariffs and faster customs processing for art transactions.
Although localised outbreaks and restricted borders are still affecting international visitation to the art hub, Shanghai Art Week continues to attract a slew of exciting shows across its vast network of galleries and museums. It is notoriously challenging to keep tabs on what exhibitions are taking place and for those who are on the ground, mapping your travel route can become quite the complex task that takes us from one end of the city to the other. Here, we give a few institutional highlights by district to help make planning easier.
At the National Exhibition and Convention Center in the Qingpu District just west of Hongqiao International Airport, the fifth edition of the China International Import Expo is already garnering much traction. Taking place until 10 November, Sotheby’s returns for a second year with a booth size five times larger than its debut participation in 2021. Following a central theme of “collecting”, the curated presentation of art and objects has been carefully chosen with the aim of elevating the collecting experience in mind and includes modern masterpieces and cutting-edge contemporary works of art by the likes of Pierre Bonnard, Edvard Munch, Mark Rothko, Daniel Richter, Matthew Wong, Antony Gormley, and Ayako Rokkaku. Coinciding with the showcase, Sotheby’s has just announced the establishment of its mainland China headquarters in Shanghai, demonstrating its commitment to the market in China.
Over in the historically affluent downtown area of Jing’an, ART021 takes over the Shanghai Exhibition Center, a glorious 1955 neoclassical landmark that was formerly the Sino-Soviet Friendship Building. A short car ride away further north in Jing’an is the newly opened UCCA Edge, the Shanghai outpost of Beijing’s UCCA Center for Contemporary Art. Plans for the space were announced in 2019, and the institution officially inaugurated in May 2021. At UCCA Edge, the ongoing exhibition “The Pieces I Am” showcases 27 Chinese and international artists and artist groups working across a range of audiovisual media from electronic games and interactive installations to video, digital art, and more. Unfolding across three key thematic splits like a science fiction trilogy – “Liquid Life”, “City of Mist”, and “The Lunar Sea” – the exhibition “posits that we live in an interconnected archipelago, a dense microsystem of websites, social media platforms, simulated environments, intelligent devices, and other contemporary technologies. These interdependent technological islands together constitute our information age, reshaping social models and living conditions.”
Also in the area is Prada Rong Zhai, a mix-use space that is part of the cultural arm of the luxury giant. Built in 1918, and in its heyday, the residence of national capitalist Yung Tsoong-King (1873–1938) and his family, the three-story garden villa was declared a cultural heritage of the Jing’an district in 2004. After six years of restoration, Prada Rong Zhai was opened in October 2017, and is now celebrated as an art and cultural space that pays homage to the villa’s rich history. Supported by Fondazione Prada, “Lake Tai”, which will run from November through January, presents a new project of sculptures and installations by New York-based artist Michael Wang which looks into the cultural and natural heritage of the Lake Tai (or Taihu Lake) in the Yangtze Delta. The third largest freshwater lake in China, prized for its gardens and “Taihu stones”, the region is considered the spiritual heart of Chinese landscape art.
Further south along the Bund, an exhibition of modern art gives us reprieve from the contemporary. “100 Years of Modern Art” at Bund One Art Museum borrows 57 artworks by revered names such as Gustav Klimt, Vincent van Gogh, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Lucio Fontana, Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, among others, from the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, Italy. The exhibition encompasses various art movements that are pivotal in 20th century American and European art history, from Macchiaioli, Impressionism, Vienna Secession, Blue Rider, and Expressionism, to Futurism, Cubism, Metaphysical Painting, Surrealism, Spatialism, Abstract Expressionism, Op Art, and more. Just a short walk away, Rockbund Art Museum opens "Traveling in the Dark", the culmination of a three-year collaboration with Vietnamese filmmaker, writer and music composer, Trinh T. Minh-ha. The exhibition features a selection of film, images, music and text by the artist bringing a poetic, sonic, visual and philosophical experience asking us to rethink what is reality.
West Bund, otherwise known as the Xuhui Waterfront along the Huangpu River, is home to nearly 20 art and cultural institutions including the Long Museum, Yuz Museum, and West Bund Museum, as part of the city’s “Shanghai 2035” master plan to make the area one of the key zones for cultural, technological and creative financial activities. West Bund Art & Design is also held here every year in West Bund Art Center, a former aircraft factory. At Yuz Museum, opened by the late collector Budi Tek, are the ongoing exhibitions “Pictures for Use and Pleasure”, the first institutional solo presentation of New York-base artist Ivy Haldeman in mainland China, and the first international retrospective of Japanese darling Yoshitomo Nara. Heading south by the waterfront down Longteng Avenue, TANK Shanghai, the venture of Chinese entrepreneur Qiao Zhibing which opened its doors in 2019, have mounted major solo exhibitions of Belgian artist Bendt Eyckermans and Georgian artist Andre Wekua, while at Long Museum West Bund is an ongoing exhibition of Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi.