The Best Street Art in Shanghai

You’ll find lots of expressive graffiti on Moganshan Road in Shanghai, China
You’ll find lots of expressive graffiti on Moganshan Road in Shanghai, China | © Takatoshi Kurikawa / Alamy Stock Photo
Will Harris

Famous street artists from all over the world have come to Shanghai to decorate its roads and alleyways. Today, the city is awash with colour.

Shanghai’s local street art scene has been steadily gaining traction for years. Now that the city recognises the economic and tourism potential of street art, the quality and quantity of pieces on show have exploded. Artists from Brazil, France, Malaysia and beyond have flocked to Shanghai to colour its walls with mesmerising murals, transforming its streets and adding an electric vibrancy to this concrete jungle.

1. Millo’s ‘Twist of Fate’

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Millo is a legendary Italian graffiti artist who is often commissioned to create epic murals in big cities all around the world. In 2017 he revealed Twist of Fate in Shanghai’s Yangpu District, a black and white cityscape in simple block lines. In the artwork’s foreground are several gigantic green water lilies, as tall as the city. Nestled among the fronds are two children helping each other to discover a sleeping red dragon. The mural is all about curiosity and taking the time to explore the world around you, apt in a city with so much to discover around every corner.

2. Millo’s ‘Sound of You’

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Sound of You is another of Millo’s Shanghai creations, located in the city’s Puxi District. The graffiti depicts a similar cityscape to the one seen in Twist of Fate, with a young woman sitting on top of a building and playing a cello made from a huge tree, as autumn leaves fall around her. It’s a beautiful piece worth seeing in full, and it asks us to consider our own self-worth and perhaps even to love ourselves a little more.

3. The Childish Art of Seth

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Julien ‘Seth’ Malland is a French artist who has been travelling the world and painting street art everywhere from Latin America to rural China. Many of his pieces can be found in the backstreets of Shanghai’s Puxi District, known for its old architecture, bustling streets and winding alleyways. Most of the artworks depict children at play, making music and having adventures. His Shanghai street art has become so popular that an exhibit of his work, Like Child’s Play, ran for three weeks in 2018 at Shanghai’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

4. The Graffiti Wall of Moganshan Road

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Moganshan Lu is a long and winding road in Shanghai that is well known for the graffiti-covered wall that stretches from its beginning to end. Many of Shanghai’s street artists use this wall as a canvas to express themselves and practise their art. The wall is crumbling and shows signs of deterioration, but the art has sustained well and is frequently photographed by art lovers. As time goes by, the art is painted over and removed by officials, but it always comes back in new forms. It’s a fascinating sight to behold, and worth multiple visits as the wall changes and evolves.

5. Kenji Chai’s take on nature and colour

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Kenji Chai is a Malaysian graffiti artist known for his vibrant pastel-coloured depictions of people, animals and nature. One of his biggest creations can be found in Shanghai’s Jing’an District. The Numen of the Spiritual Homeland depicts a woman dressed in a Chinese qipao dress. On top of her head rests a bonsai tree, a Japanese crane and flying koi fish. It’s a gorgeous sight that is well worth seeking out to enjoy in person.

6. Sipros in Shanghai

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Sipros is a world-renowned Brazilian street artist known for drawing human caricatures with highly detailed faces and big ears. One such iconic piece can be found in Shanghai’s Lujiazui District in Pudong. Infinite Love covers the entire wall of an apartment building, showing a young boy in a cute bear hat surrounded by floating rainbow love hearts. The charming mural is intended to bring a smile to the face of every passerby.

7. Local artist Sheep Chen

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Shanghai native Sheep Chen is often found travelling the world, spreading joy with his street art. One of his finest works is a 2018 mural found on Ji Mo Road, depicting a young girl hugging a rabbit. When the sun shines, the piece takes on a mystical shimmer. Look closely and you’ll notice little background and foreground touches of mountains and floating flowers.

8. ‘New Thoughts on Environment’

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Another notable Pudong work is New Thoughts on Environment by the artist Ozmo. The work shows a silhouette of a boy, his head filled with an intricate image of an old clipper ship on the waves as dolphins swim beneath. It is intended to inspire children to have a greater curiosity about the ocean.

9. The Bears of Pudong

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Lujiazui, otherwise known as the financial centre of Shanghai, has received a colourful makeover recently, with more and more street art popping up. Artist Animalitoland’s Bears of Pudong is awash with gorgeous autumn and winter tones that break up the area’s steely exterior. A mother bear and her cub embrace in front of a sun-drenched landscape. The piece stirs up emotions of familial love and calls out to the natural world.

10. The cheerful art of Daxue Road

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Daxue Lu is a bright and welcoming Shanghai street filled with restaurants and markets. Venture a little off the beaten path and you’ll find its quieter areas have been brightened up with a number of street art gems. Park scenes and colourful portraits of young ladies adorn the older parts of Daxue Lu, adding a splash of colour and flair to the area.

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