A city bursting with creativity, culture and history, Shanghai is quickly becoming the Eastern capital of contemporary art
. Come summer, artists, fairs, and exhibitions take over the entire city, making for a fascinating three months for those wanting to experience Shanghai’s cutting edge of contemporary art. See what’s on with our guide to Shanghai’s ten best summer shows, art exhibitions, and installations in 2015.
15 Years of the Contemporary Chinese Art Award at the Power Station of Art
Through 20 July
Although it received more coverage for its last-minute removal of Ai Wei Wei’s sunflower seeds and wooden stool pieces than for what was actually featured in the exhibition, 15 Years of the Contemporary Chinese Art Award was an unmissable opportunity to get to grips with art from this wonderfully diverse country. As you might expect from what is essentially a greatest hits compilation of one of Asia’s most prestigious art prizes, the Contemporary Chinese Art Award offers visual and intellectual stimulation aplenty, and, as many critics have pointed out, with far more overt messages to be made about the dangers of unwanted rule.
Power Station of Art, 200 Huayuangang Road, Shanghai, China
Strange Days at BANK
19 July – 31 August
The wooden stage at BANK gallery, once apparently used for denunciations during the Mao era, saw a cultural revolution of a different kind as artist and fashion designer Chen Tianzhao brought a surreal, DayGlo ‘hip hopera’ to the space. The opera’s visuals were supplied from the artist’s film Hip Hop (the backdrop for this opera, and a corner piece of the Strange Days show) and combined art and trash culture as well as Eastern and Western influences. Also featured were Lynchian tattoo-covered rappers lipsyncing Cantonese rap songs in a hyper-animated assault on bad taste the artist has called ‘an ode to weed and masturbation.’
BANK, 59 Xiang Gang Lu, Shanghai, China +86 21 6301 3622
Childhood Friends Getting Fat at the Minsheng Art Museum
Through 31 July
Long-considered the greatest and most prestigious of all painting styles, the history of painting has practically been relegated to the realms of the overblown and the kitsch. Liu Xiaodong could be the artist to change that, bringing an contemporary eye to the genre and depicting the issues that our time is sure to be defined by; climate change crises, economic hardship, and the moving webs of immigration and emigration. At the Childhood Friends Getting Fat exhibition, these works were put into a new context through comparison with decades of the artist’s engagement with those modern mediums – the stills camera and the movie camera.
Minsheng Art Museum, 570 West Huaihai Road, Shanghai, China +86 21 6282 8729
Advance Through Retreat at the Rockbund Art Museum
Advance Through Retreat at the Rockbund Art Museum
Through 3 August
Based upon one of the many aphorisms from Sun Tzu’s seminal 6th century book of military strategy The Art of War, ‘advance through retreat’ was a maxim crucial to modern military and business strategy. This summer, however, the curators at the Rockbund Art Museum applied it to the artistic battlefield, creating a show brought together by the idea of advancing through retreat; that is, using art and cultural tradition to subvert, challenge and progress contemporary art. The exhibition featured both Chinese and international multimedia artists, from modern filmmaking to an updated version of traditional Chinese calligraphy.
Rockbund Art Museum, 20 Huqiu Road, Shanghai, China +86 21 3310 9985
Dreaming in Color at Art Labor Gallery
Through 25 August
Located in the former French Concession, Art Labor Gallery has been central to the development of Shanghai as a cultural centre to be reckoned with, through their dedication to a roster of Chinese and international artists, as well as their aim to prevent the art scene from stagnating by constantly discovering new talent. The latest manifestation of this can be seen in Dreaming in Color, a kaleidoscopic exhibition focusing on dreaming and fantasy, which featured contributions from the gallery’s impressive pool of talent to create a show that was at once surreal and sublime.
Art Labor Gallery, 570 Yongjia Road, Shanghai, China +86 21 3460 5331
In Between Days IV at Art+ Shanghai Gallery
Through 31 August
This year, Art+ Shanghai Gallery brought us the fourth installment of their In Between Days series of exhibitions, showcasing the finest works from their collections, both domestic and international. This may have been the best one yet; showcasing their new location, this exhibition showcased a fascinating preoccupation with a sort of surreal super-nature in the form of unicorn, tigers, and a pair of ceramic horses, to name a few of the strange zoological items on display. Also featured heavily was artist Xie Aige, whose lighthearted sculptural musings on balance and nature were displayed for the first time in this gallery.
Art+ Shanghai Gallery, 191 South Suzhou Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China +86 21 6333 7223
Photo Shanghai at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre
September 5 – 7
The Asia-Pacific region is now a major player in the art market; a development reflected this year in the art fairs launching in Shanghai. This year, the city offered a first for China with Photo Shanghai, the inaugural international art fair in the country dedicated to the photographic arts. From Chengdu to the Czech Republic, some of the world’s finest and most famous galleries exhibited photography’s greats, both contemporary and historical, across the whole of the Shanghai Exhibition Centre. Become familiar with this hot new fair before it becomes a crucial date in the cultural calendar akin to Hong Kong’s Art Basel.
Shanghai Exhibition Center, Nanjing West Road, Shanghai, China +86 21 2216 2216
SH Contemporary at the Shanghai Exhibition Center
12 – 14 September
Now entering its seventh year and already established as one of the most important Asian art fairs, summer 2015 was rounded off with the BolognaFiere SH Contemporary. Aside from the section dedicated to talks and seminars, the fair offered four varied project spaces: one featuring the best of the world’s galleries and curation across all of the mediums of contemporary art; one highlighting the oft-neglected art of a selected country or nation; one to bring exposure to hot young talent all over the world; and another to offer an exclusive and exciting series of site-specific installations. A must-visit exhibition for everyone from the collector to the casual art fan.
Shanghai Exhibition Center, Nanjing West Road, Shanghai, China, +86 21 2216 2216
The Artist Always Gets Paid Last at Island6
Through September 12
As the title may suggest, the Artist Always Gets Paid Last exhibition focused on one of the biggest problems for those working in the creative industries; the idea that the artist always gets paid last, if at all, with their creative vision lost in commercial demands. However, rather than presenting the issue from the obvious, didactic perspective, the loose international collective of artists that makes up Island 6 turned its signature wry eye on the problem. Using mediums from installation to video art and LED light pieces, the artists took us to a strange land where creative endeavour has fallen foul of hungry capitalists.
Island6, 50 Moganshan Road, Shanghai, China, +86 21 6227 7856
Twofold Solo Exhibition: Jeffrey Shaw and Hu Jeming at Chronus Art Centre
Through 28 November
Art was omnipresent this summer in Shanghai, especially at Chronus Art Centre. The first artist of their double-headed retrospective looked at the work of Jeffrey Shaw and his 360-degree panorama film experience AVIE (Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment). This was showcased alongside the work of Jieming, one of China’s most interesting (and original in both senses) digital artists. Together, they created a show that exhibited the fantastic possibilities digital technologies can bring to the art world as they created unique environments totally impossible in reality.
Chronus Art Centre, 50 Moganshan Road, Shanghai, China +86 21 5271 5789