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Nose Candy, Outer Space Futurism, and Staged Photos: The Month in Art

Art season kicking off strong.
By Sep 12, 2019 Arts


Autumn is here and the city’s art season has officially started. This month in the art world: nostalgic scents, surreal sculptures and emotional photography.


Daily until Jan 5 2020

Do You Copy

MOCA Shanghai - People's Park, 231 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Hua...

MoCA presents Do You Copy, a group exhibition that’s a futuristic journey into the past, inspired by the times in which astronomy, space exploration, and robotics dominated public imagination.

The first floor takes you from the Space Race to cyberpunk. You start at the Sino-Soviet side of the rush — that’s made evident by a towering photograph of a monument to Yuri Gagarin. There’s a realistic representation of a Chinese space capsule too: a four-meter high sculpture made of stainless steel and electric wires.

Next, you find a short film trilogy by Shanghai-based artist Axl Li. Kiyomi Kobayashi tells the story of a young geisha that was frozen and resuscitated 300 years later as a robot. These are remarkable 3D animations loaded with cyberpunk and dystopian elements.

On the second floor, fashion shows the 1950s enthusiasm for space exploration. There are more films, including clips of the iconic A Trip to the Moon from 1902, widely considered the first sci-fi movie in history.

The show is complimented by sound installations made of acrylic domes, adding an extra retro-futuristic touch to the setting. If you need a quick escape from Earth or from the present, this one's for you. Make sure to bring cash or card: they don't take WeChat or Alipay.

Daily except Mon until Oct 25 2019

Nez à Nez: Contemporary Perfumers

Power Station of Art - 200 Huayuangang Lu, near Miaojiang Lu

This one is for the nose, with the creations of 13 contemporary perfumers.

From the press release:

““Nez à Nez”– which literally translates as “nose to nose” – draws attention to the fact that this is not an exhibition to be “viewed”; instead, one needs to “smell” it. Unlike typical perfume exhibitions, “Nez à Nez” focuses on the creative processes of perfumers themselves.

According to statistics, there are only about 400 fine perfumers working worldwide, which is remarkably fewer than the number of astronauts. The surprising scarcity of professionals inperfume design reflects the painstaking and challenging work demanded by the industry. Tracing the careers of thirteen individual perfumers, the exhibition will focus on a number of themes: Simplicity, Innovation, Carnality, Mastership, Tradition and Nature. Whilst each perfumer entered the industry fora variety of reasons, they all completed rigorous training and carried out extensive research, learning how to balance ingredients and discover their own individual identities.”

The display is divided into six interactive installations. The fragrances in the first room can be sensed when visitors open the folding fans embedded in the tables. Another room is almost entirely dark, drawing your attention to the capacity that odors have to evoke individual memories and emotions.

The variety means every visitor will probably be moved by one or more samples. Photography, handouts, and books shed light on the journey and creative process of a perfumer, providing the visitor with some perspective on the craft.

Daily except Mon until Oct 13 2019

Island of Immortality

Arario Gallery (West Bund) - 1/F, 2879 Longteng Dadao, near Fenggu Lu

Further on the West Bund, Xu Bacheng has a solo show at Arario Gallery. The mix of paintings, sculptures, and installations revolve around the concept of the Island of Immortality.

The outlandish feeling begins with the installation in the first room: a group of hybrid creatures seems to greet visitors to the island shores. These are child-like figures with disturbing animal faces.

In the second room, a 12 meter-wide painting names the exhibition. It's a perplexing scene exploring the dichotomy between past and future. There are 360 different representations of Xu Bacheng himself, each one engaged in some sort of activity that makes sense in this nonsensical world.

Yellow House, an infrared sensing installation, follows visitors around the gallery (ask the receptionist to turn it on). It’s a model of an American colonial house with an oversized banana on its porch. Also on display is Revelation, a composition of several Goya-esque sketches, filled with erotic and terrifying themes.

The third room is darkened for a dreamlike mood. There are two surreal installations in the shape of dollhouses: in one, theatrical scenes are projected into each small chamber of the dollhouse; in the other, the ticking of a clock gives a pace to the surreal projection, and green apples and faceless toys are references to the works of the Belgian surrealist René Magritte.

The exhibition’s strength is Xu Bacheng’s fantastical imagination and the control he has over it. All of the works suggest an alternate reality that Xu has interpreted in the world around him. Island of Immortality invites visitors to look at their worlds in the same way.

Daily except Mon & Sun until Oct 19 2019

The Last Sunset

Galerie Perrotin - 3/F, 27 Huqiu Lu, near Beijing Dong Lu

This is a good month for artist Ni Youyu, who’s having two solo shows in town (and participating in the group one at MoCA). His subject matter always originates from his fascination with religion, history, and scientific knowledge.

Perrotin’s exhibition focuses on his paintings. The central piece is The Last Sunset in the Museum, a large golden painting that is nearly identical to a 16th-century Italian illustration by Ferrante Imperato. Ni Youyu, however, replaces the human figures in the original for small depictions of his other works.

The setup for the second room looks like a museum hall. All paintings have beautiful antique frames that Ni Youyu collected and then used to decide what content he would create for them. The pieces pay homage to old masters like Edvard Munch and Van Gogh.

Daily until Oct 20 2019

YUZ Museum - 35 Fenggu Lu, near Longteng Avenue

Meanwhile, Yuz Museum shows Ni Youyu’s mixed-media sculptures, most of them for the first time. The exhibition is named “”, because of the Greek mathematical concept of infinity. Dionysus is a 3-meter high sculpture composed of a small Roman head inside an inverted wine glass on top of a carved wooden pillar. There is an industrial steel clamp around its Corinthian cement base, showing off Ni’s talent to mix materials and references from different historical periods.

In Museum, Ni creates a lilliputian museum hall with tiny paintings in richly decorated frames, similar to the ones at Perrotin. The piece is inserted in an authentic museum cabinet. Another piece follows the same gaiety; in Moon, the artist mapped the names of many famous galleries around the world on the surface of a lunar globe.

In both pieces, he is simultaneously making a joke and paying tribute to the very institutions that he works to be part of. This ambiguity is repeated in other works on display.

Daily until Oct 31 2019

Story Smuggler

Magda Danysz Gallery - 256 Beijing Dong Lu, near Jiangxi Zhong L...

PHOTOFAIRS is already stirring up the photography scene in Shanghai, and many galleries are organizing special projects that relate to the medium. An honorable mention is Danysz Gallery, which shows works by the Chinese artist Maleonn (who also curated the show) and the Dutch artist Erwin Olaf. The spotlight is on storytelling.

Most of Maleonn’s photographs on display look like film frames: wide shots in black and white, with vignettes and a light grunge texture. The scenes portray traditional Chinese characters in natural scenarios. However, Maleonn’s centerpiece is 99000 Ksana of one Incense, a composition of seven photographs of broken Buddha statues and lit incense. The artist used the long exposure technique for 30 minutes to capture the entire burning process, creating a meteor shower effect.

Olaf's images are flawlessly stylized. Among other works, the exhibition presents pieces of his Shanghai series, replete with emotions and cinematic associations. Two pieces of the Shanghai Fu 1088 The Trinity are presented. The original composition is The Mother, The Child, and The Father, but for this show, The Child was replaced with the photograph of another woman with a cynical mien. The new set implies a love triangle.

Both artists come from commercial backgrounds and it shows. They bring in professional make-up artists, costume designers and models; their role is as much photographer as it is director.

from Sep 18 until Sep 20 2020


SH Exhibition Centre - 1000 Yan'an Lu, near Tongren Lu

The sixth edition of PHOTOFAIRS will open to the public between September 20-22. This year, the Spotlight section focuses on photographs and videos of Marina Abramović's The Lovers, where, in 1988, she and her then-lover Ulay stood on opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and walked towards each other. After 90 days, they met in the middle and ended their 12-year relationship.

Other notorious names to be exhibited this year are the enigmatic nanny "slash" street photographer, Vivian Mayer, and the controversial Robert Mapplethorpe. The extensive program includes public talks and in-depth discussions.

Daily except Mon until Nov 2 2019

MOTSE: Over and Over Again

Powerlong Museum - 3055 Caobao Lu, near Xinzhen Lu

Feeling spirited? Powerlong Museum has an exhibition with seventeen installations covering two entire halls. Most of the works have some type of immersive or interactive touch. They’re by new media art collective Motse Gallery Studio and bring together all the ingredients of a good selfie.

Resist pulling your phone out in front Endless, a kinetic installation made of stainless steel rings that revolve continuously. The mesmeric whirl resembles that of an old ship engine, with an ever-changing light and a soothing soundtrack.

Classic meets neo-pop in All False, a group of six sculptures in the shape of Greek pillars. One of them is a simple replica, while the other five are encrusted with toy-art, each one with a different theme: Medicom Toy, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Jeff Koons, and, of course, Kaws.

Perhaps the most interesting piece is Made in China, a 16-meter wide interactive image that reproduces Shanghai’s cityscape. Popular characters, both local and imported, overtake the scenery as visitors walk by.

The second hall is filled with more immersive and interactive installations. There's an honest technical quality to most of them, but overall there's no novelty, and none of them resonate at a deeper level. It feels like the exhibition was stretched long enough to give the sensation that it’s worth the time and financial effort (128rmb). In the end, you feel disoriented for having endured several immersive experiences, one after the other, Over and Over Again.

For more major art exhibitions happening in Shanghai, have a look at SmartShanghai’s art calendar to stay up to date.



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