One of the most anticipated art venue openings of the year (past several years?) the new Museum of Art Pudong is now open and offering up a comforting assemblage of Shanghai’s favorite things:
It’s big. It’s a minimalist, marble-concrete-and-glass, box-y design. It’s got lots of Moments-worthy art going on inside of it (three concurrent opening exhibitions, in fact). It’s got internationally-sourced validation (selections from Tate Modern are housed therein). It’s got a fine dining Italian-ish restaurant on the roof. It’s got a 55-meter-wide glass wall that doubles as an LED screen.
It’s got the Oriental Pearl TV Tower — all right up in your damn face.
All flippancy aside, stretching purposefully along the Huangpu River, the sheer size of the Museum of Art Pudong — 10,000 square-meters and 13 exhibition halls — vaults it to the top of the list for destinations in Shanghai for casual art lovers. The opening salvo of exhibitions — which feature, no less, live and in the flesh, a painting that was on the cover of my Art History 101 university text book — is diverse and worth the trip down.
If you’re looking to wait till the crowds die down a bit (1,600 visitors a day, currently), but want a peak inside, well, here you go.
The Museum of Art Pudong was developed by Lujiazui Group and designed by famous French architect Jean Nouvel, who also did the big red building near Xintiandi. It’s a ten-minute walk from the Lujiazui metro station. The space. Is huge. MAP covers six floors with 13 exhibition halls as well as a rooftop terrace. The interior is standard Shanghai minimalism, although the warm color and lighting offset this somewhat, creating a more accessible feel for the works. They’ve got Wi-Fi, audio guides, cloakroom, wheelchairs, power banks, and baby carriages.
Such a good idea to take your newborn baby to see some Joan Miró paintings, they’ll love that.
At the exit, there is a gift shop that not only sells souvenirs from the current art shows, but also hot, hot merch from museums around the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and The British Museum.
'The steep and thorny way to heaven': The Opening Exhibitions
The first floor showcases "Ophelia", painted by British artist John Everett Millais in 1852 — famous from paragraph three of this article as the cover of my Art History 101 textbook. And seeing this work in person, my god, never has there been a sad and muddy death so gorgeously and vividly depicted. MAP serves up a whole multi-media room with accompanying documentation — interpretations and contextual information — but I shall supply my own for you right here. Here is a link to a Nick Cave music video inspired by this painting, with Kylie Minogue playing Ophelia. (It's amazing.)
The work is part of Tate’s Light: Works from Tate's Collection, continued in the third floor, which also serves Olafur Eliasson’s 2014 dazzling hanging sculpture "Starlight Particle" as well as pieces by Claude Monet, John Martin, and Anish Kapoor.
The second floor features the exhibition Odyssey and Homecoming, a comprehensive series of artworks by New York-based Chinese painter / pyro-technician Cai Guoqiang. Cai Guoqiang was also featured at the opening of the Rockbund Art Museum in 2010 and is the current go-to Chinese contemporary artist if you’re looking to make big, bombastic statements with explosives. His claim to fame is that he was the visual director for the fireworks for the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Cai Guoqiang medium for Odyssey and Homecoming? Gunpowder. Naturally. The gallery showcases 538 fireworks projects in 218 cities in 50 countries around the world. Along with 101 projects that he didn't get to pull off. His failed projects are his "dream lovers", he jokes in the documentation.
Switching from fire to light, one of Cai Guoqiang's whistfully sincere pieces "Encounter with the Unknown" is a conception of the possibilities of the universe as imagined by a child looking up at the night sky. Similar in theme is his "Cosmic Tree" a 30-meter LED-infused installation which is also all about straightforward, cosmos-orientated longing and fantasy.
Meanwhile, on the fourth floor, Joan Miró is here, working in lush, lively, bold block colors that will forever scream Barcelona! Barcelona! Barcelona!
Sixty-nine works by the Spanish painter are on show, marking this the first time the Fundació Joan Miró has displayed its works in China. This exhibition is called "Women · Birds · Stars" and, well...it's obviously the Shanghai highlight of the year for Joan Miró fans.
Food, Drink, Coffee, Rooftops
Two F&B spaces are there to save you from starving to death, walking around this giant museum: Seesaw Coffee and Roof P.M.
MAP x Seesaw is on the ground floor next to the gift shop. It’s not just another Seesaw – the museum edition offers a few special treats, like tea latte with coconut and avocado, cold brews, and a handful of cakes, sandwiches, and snacks.
Roof P.M. is a high-end restaurant that occupies the rooftop, incorporating glass windows, and hosting a 360-degree view of the Bund and the OPTV Tower. The place is currently soft open with a semi buffet set at 248rmb per person, which offers unlimited salads and cold plates, and light Italian main courses. Vegan options as well.
So there you have it, casual or serious art and life lover. The gigantic Museum of Art Pudong. I foresee this place figuring dominantly in SmartShanghai’s inevitable “Things to Do in the City that Don’t Involve Drinking Yourself to Death” articles for years to come.
Important Note: MAP is *really* popular now and has set a limit of 1,600 guests per day. If you plan to visit, make sure you secure your spot in advance on their WeChat official account. Alternatively, you might have to spend a few hundred kuai for an all-pass ticket for the shows, which you can do on-site if you can get in.
The Museum of Art Pudong is at 2777 Binjiang Dadao.