Shanghai - Reviews

The Secret Sauce of Ten Essential Exhibitions in Shanghai to See during and after Art Week

8 months ago

Reporting from Shanghai: A Review by Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva

Not only it is Hairy Crab Season in Asia, but in Shanghai it is also Art Season. With two major fairs, that not so long ago were competitors, but now seem to run along in a complementary fashion (with several galleries exhibiting at both), a myriad of gallery shows, and a biennale, Shanghai just strengthens furthermore its position as a unmissable destination on the art calendar. The 6th Edition of ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair took place November 8-11 with 103 galleries from around the world. Settled in the iconic Shanghai Exhibition Center (a Sino-Soviet Friendship Building built in 1955 in the Stalinist style) it attracted a wide range of people, young and veteran art goers alike, as well as socialites and celebrities. The more sophisticated West Bund Art & Design fair, on the other hand, located in the now well developed art area further from the center, appeared to appeal to more seasoned art professionals and museum crowds. This year it welcomed 115 galleries for its fifth edition, expanding into a new tripartite expo centre with garden-like areas in between the three halls.

Leveraging the thousands visitors in town that came for the fairs and the biennale, locally based galleries and museums are competing for our attention by offering high stakes exhibitions aiming at setting themselves apart from an eclectic and crowded art scene. In addition to MAG’s top ten choices, here are ten suggestions of shows to visit in Shanghai during November art season.

Shanghai Biennale
Taking over three floor of the Shanghai Power Station of Art (PSA), the Shanghai Biennale, who’s list of artists was kept hush-hush until nearly before the opening, brings touches of humanity to an otherwise vision of a confused world. Curated by Mexican Cuauhtémoc Medina, with María Belén Sáez de Ibarra, Yukie Kamiya, and Wang Weiwei, the biennale presents works by 70 artists from 26 countries. Videos are an important component, from documentary-like renditions such as by Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares’s “Forest Law”, that talks about the endangered Ecuadorian Amazon, to artistic renditions of nature such as by Clemencia Echeverri’s “River By Assault” allegorically staging the Colombian rivers Cauca and Magdalena as a soulful body. Small and grand installations are also present, such as the card boxes formation on the grand floor by Enrique Ježik that trace the Chinese characters for Lenin’s  book “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” and is readable from the upper floors. Paintings, photographs, and more, span—with performance activated-spaces in some cases—reaching up to the PSA’s third floor.

Until March 10th, 2019

Yayoi Kusama: “The Longing for my love all began from my heart” at OTA Fine Arts
The exhibition includes 34 paintings from Yayoi Kusama “My Eternal Soul” series that she started in 2009. Initially planning to make 100 of them she has since painted more than 500. Faces, flowers, eyes, and organic shapes populate the series with vibrant colours, whimsical yet powerful charm. Forming a language of their own, they speak with the artist’s signature motifs, as many characters of magical fables she would have authored.  Soft sculptures along the paintings materialise some of the shapes in a tridimensional state, as if props for the stories told by the pictures.
Also on show, an Infinity Mirror Room that works like a large kaleidoscope of sorts with two small openings for visitors to peek through. Playful and mesmerising the installation features multicoloured lights.

Until January 20, 2019

“Can you Hear Me? Nalini Malani 1969-2018” at Arario Gallery
The exhibition title for Nalini Malani’s solo show is “Can you Hear Me? Nalini Malani 1969-2018” and comes from an iPad-created stop-motion animation series the artist once shared through her Instagram account. Multiple projections show her older animations alongside the more recent ones. One screen remains static for a while with a text that says: “George Orwell once said: “either we all live in a decent world or nobody is”. Also on show, a beautiful range of her reverse paintings (a technique where layers of paint are applied on see-through surfaces starting from the finishing layers, and then the surface is turned around to produce the final image).

Until February 17

Shanghai Center of Photography (SCôP) 
Curated by Shanghai-based artist and curator Hao Xu, “Another Way of Telling” at the Shanghai Center of Photography (SCôP) features almost 100 works by two leading documentary photographers from the UK: Anna Fox and Karen Knorr. Funny and colourful, the show offers glimpses into the country’s working class and cultural influences. It includes Knorr’s “Belgravia” series where photographs are paired with text in ironic renderings about class and society. Or Fox’s series “Resort”, featuring the British working class on holidays. Touching and insightful, one can draw a parallel between the show contents and today’s rise of the Chinese middle and higher class.

Until November 18th.

“The Artist is Present”, curated by Maurizio Cattelan, Yuz Museum
Born from the will to have something fun and inspirational made in Shanghai by artist Maurizio Cattelan and Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele the show was inspired by the idea that this city exemplifies the concept of copy as an original. Thus the show “The Artist is Present” gathers more than 30 artists whose works question the notion of copy through borrowed inspirations, issues of originality, and open appropriation. The result is a fun linear walkthrough, as walking through the fun house of an amusement where the audience gets to discover the many tricks artists use to produce material for their artwork.

Francis Alÿs “La dépense”, Rockbund Art Museum
Known for his banal approaches that draw from a vast range of media, Belgium Mexico-based artist Francis Alÿs occupies the floors of the Rockbund Museum almost quietly—with the exception of the mesmerising Tornado video, where he runs into a tornado multiple times, camera in hand. The rest of his solo show “La dépense” features little paintings, drawings, and other witnesses of small gestures made by an art flâneur who links the globe together via mundane and repetitive actions, effectively rendering the impression that even a megalopolis can be experienced as an village.

Until February 24, 2019

Lui Chun Kwong “Forming Dusty Clues”, Aike dell’Arco
“Forming Dusty Clues” is the solo exhibition by Hong Kong artist Lui Chun Kwong and features a series of his recent landscape abstract paintings. Lui describes his painting practice as “standing, drinking, walking, and ploughing”, an attitude that results in canvases with long lines running parallel each other and created through a series of action and time-based gestures that reflects a quiet and meditative life (the artist lives in a remote area in Hong Kong and likes to be barefoot). Lui’s delicate and minimal strokes evoke the natural colours of his environment, an unpretentious way of life at the heart of Chinese traditional culture. Notably, the artist has taught many Hong Kong artists, and remains an influential figure into their way of thinking.

Until December 16

Long Museum besides Bourgeois the other one Tu Hongtao
After walking past Louise Bourgeois monumental spider at the Long Museum, one can head for the exhibition space in the basement that features a solo exhibition by Chinese artist Tu Hongtao, “A Timely Journey”. Inspired by his native Chengdu, landscape surroundings, art history, and from traditional Chinese as well as Western canons, Tu creates landscapes that seem abstract paintings at first. After a longer gaze, one starts discerning forms and perspective within the compositions. The artist paints over and over what he has done multiple times, creating thick surfaces as if adding more stories onto the canvas. Also on show, a remarkable mixed-technique scroll which original texture echoes both Chinese ink tradition and graffiti culture.

Until December 2

Ding Yi “Interchange”, ShanghART
After a 12-year gap from showing at the gallery, Shanghai-born artist Ding Yi’s solo exhibition “Interchange” at ShanghART Gallery West Bund features his most recent paintings from the “Appearance of Crosses” series, as well as the installation “Painting Stand” (a large stands with canvases standing inside). The paintings are the latest exploration of the artist into the painting of crosses— “+” and “x”— that he started in the 80s, through different colour palettes, textures, and brushstrokes. Initiated as a minimalist response to a rampant country-wide wave of urbanisation around him, the paintings merge design and art in what seems an effortless yes obsessive practice. After so many years, the relentless and repetitive patterns have become a language indisputably the artist’s own. 

Until January 6th, 2019.

Also in town: Yanyan Huang at BANK Mab Society, Takashi Murakami at Perrotin Gallery’s newly opened space, and Cindy Sherman at the Fosun Foundation in the stunning Bund Finance Center, jointly designed by Foster + Partners and Heatherwick Studio.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Installation view, Shanghai Biennale, 2018. Courtesy of Power Station of Art Installation view, Shanghai Biennale, 2018. Courtesy of Power Station of Art
  • Nalini Malani, Desire Rupture, 2016 Nalini Malani, Desire Rupture, 2016
  • Karen Knorr, Fables 2, The King's Reception, Exhibition view at SCOP, Shanghai Karen Knorr, Fables 2, The King's Reception, Exhibition view at SCOP, Shanghai
  • Installation view of “Francis Alÿs: La dépense”, Rockbund Art Museum, 2018 Courtesy of Rockbund Art Museum Installation view of “Francis Alÿs: La dépense”, Rockbund Art Museum, 2018 Courtesy of Rockbund Art Museum
  • Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Room, OTA Fine Arts Shanghai Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Room, OTA Fine Arts Shanghai
  • Lui Chun Kwong, Lui Chun Kwong, "Forming Dusty Clues", Installation view, Aike Dell'Arco, Shanghai, 2018
  • Tu Hongtao at Long Museum Tu Hongtao at Long Museum
  • Ding Yi, Interchange, Exhibition view, 2018. Courtesy of ShanghART Ding Yi, Interchange, Exhibition view, 2018. Courtesy of ShanghART