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Shanghai Builds and Rebuilds: Four Stunning and Modern Art Palaces
Enormous, hundred-year-old industrial buildings are given new life and new purposes.
By | Photos Jin Qian Nov 27, 2018 Arts
Once rejected, now accepted. Obsolete industrial facilities that had fueled the city’s development are now fueling our art scene. Thanks to world-class architecture firms from both China and overseas, gigantic shipyard and oil tanks are being transformed into art spaces. Private art museums have far outpaced the state-owned ones not just by number but also scale. Earlier this year, we welcomed three new members to the Shanghai art world. As 2019 comes to a close, we look at four new spaces that are putting Shanghai at the forefront of China’s art scene.

MIFA 1862


1777 Binjang Dadao, near Jimo Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

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Opened: November 2018
Where: The far side of Lujiazui

Japanese starchitect Kengo Kuma was called in to transform this 150+ year-old shipyard in Pudong into an artsy commercial space. He elected to keep most of the original structures in the 31,000 square meter space, preserving and reusing rusty steel girders, weathered old signs and soot-black chimneys.

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Shanghai"

Shanghai"

Arguably the most ambitious cultural complex in all of Pudong, which does not lack marquee urban renewal projects these days, the site houses the Museum of Modern Art (New York)’s only official shop in China/Shanghai, a handful of small and medium galleries hosting contemporary art shows, and an 800-seat theater that we’ve covered in depth before.

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This being Shanghai, it’s also got lots of stuff to buy (Aston Martin) and fancy restaurants to eat at (luxury crab restaurant Cejerdary, expense account Cantonese at Yu Jin Tian).

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Powerlong Museum


3055 Caobao Lu, near Xinzhen Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

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Opened: November 2017
Where: Qibao… groan…

Powerlong is a real estate company and this museum is the show-and-tell space for its chairman, Xu Jiankang. Xu is a high-profile rich AF art collector and this is his non-profit space.

It is the opposite of the repurposed industrial building, which is a bit of a trend in the large-scale art museum world these days. Instead, the 23,000 square meter museum was purpose-built to become this museum, anchored by a stunning minimalist ramp that spirals up the center of the building.

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Shanghai"

Xu’s collection is on permanent display and it's a collection that covers renowned Chinese painters of various generations: Qi Baishi (watercolor), Guan Liang (ink wash), Zhou Chunya (oil painting), and Cai Guoqiang (who “paints” with gunpowder), to name just a few. Just walking up the spiral, you have Feng Zikai, the beloved Shanghai-based cartoonist, and pieces by Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese polka-dot queen who lives in a mental health ward. At the top of the ramp is a serene exhibition of calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting spread among different rooms, each devoted to a different school during Qing Dynasty: the Hai-Pai western/eastern “fusion” school; Jingjin (Beijing and Tianjin); and Lingnan, based in the southern province of Guangdong. And then there are the six or seven or so exhibition halls located on the ground floor and the basement, dedicated to contemporary art. Qibao: fake canal towns and crazy art.

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Modern Art Museum


4777 Binjiang Da Dao, near Pudian Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

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Opened: December, 28th, 2016. But highly underrated.
Where: The poor, neglected side of the Xuhui riverfront

Have you ever watched an indie VR film inside a low-ceiling coal bunker, surrounded by concrete funnels? That's Lao Bai Du. Forget its bland English name. Its Chinese name, the Art Warehouse (艺仓), is more evocative, referencing the building’s history as a former coal storage facility known as the Lao Bai Du Coal Warehouse (老白渡煤仓).

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The giant, concrete-and-glass building formed a triangle with Power Station of Art and Fosun Foundation. Designed by Atelier Deshaus, who also did the West Bund’s Long Museum, the building retained many of its original structures, like a long, elevated channel that runs into the facility from the north that used to transport coal. The raw, industrial interior is largely preserved.

Exhibitions here have included the joyful Spanish artist-designer Jaime Hayon and cult master Junji Ito, who's responsble for some of the creepiest manga in the world. The first floor is currently under renovation but the rest of the structure remains.

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Tank Shanghai


2350 Longteng Dadao, near Longyao Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

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Opened: Not yet! March 2019
Where: West Bund

Tank Shanghai is the brainchild of Chinese collector Qiao Zhibing. The 60,000 square meter complex, the size of 11 American football fields, turns the former oil storage tanks for the Longhua Airport into galleries, bookstores, restaurants and an education center. Longhua, built in 1917, was China’s earliest international airport and the oil in these tanks powered the first flights in the country. Historic!

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Beijing firm OPEN Architecture led the makeover, first dividing the tanks by diameter (some are 24 meters, others are 28 meters wide) and then by function. Number One will be a music venue; Number Two will be a three-story restaurant (no word on who will run it); Number Three will be an open space for large-scale installations; Number Four will be a three-story exhibition space; and Number Five, which has two floors, will be an event space for things like fashion shows and music festivals. But that’s all in the future. The only thing open at the moment is Qiao's private gallery Qiao Space.

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