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Three Exhibitions to See, Plus Everything Else Art This Weekend

Shanghai's art scene: so hot right here. Here's three essential shows and a bunch more for your consideration...
Last updated: 2016-09-09
It's the high season for wonderful and edifying art exhibitions in Shanghai once again. Cutting a few recommendations from the swath, here's three we're recommending seeing in person, as well as everything else going on in the universe at the bottom. Culture-fy yourselves!


OVERPOP sees some of today’s most exciting names in contemporary art come together for a visual synopsis of now, all beautifully housed inside YUZ Museum’s ginormous former airplane hangar space. Rubbing shoulders alongside curator Jeffrey Deitch’s superstar picks -- think Alex Israel, Camille Henrot and 2016 Turner Prize winner Helen Marten -- are pieces by six young Chinese artists curated by OCAT Xi’an director Karen Smith. Nonetheless, this is far from a show of two halves, or ‘foreign’ pitched against ‘local’; rather, there’s a definite synergy, and a real sense of exchange.

Both groups are concerned with popular culture -- be it social media and the internet; contemporary social anxieties; or the relationship between art consumerism and credence. For the Chinese contingent in particular, the internet as a vehicle for expression features heavily, both digitally and otherwise. Take Tan Tian, for example, who paints snippets of conversations with the gallerists and dealers who court him onto canvases plastered with heart-eyed emojis and Facebook thumbs. Elsewhere, Shanghai-based aaajiao has created a sculptural ‘digital graveyard’ of outdated Windows operating systems.

Other works use technology to make sense of worlds real or mythical. LA-born Ian Cheng’s Emissary in the Squat of Gods, for example, uses an algorithm to generate a virtual backdrop for two interlacing histories: of a society taking shape, plus an incomer’s quest for consciousness. As the evolution gathers pace, characters’ communication -- otherworldly squeaks, warbles and murmurs -- seem to become more sophisticated and complex. Also concerned with cementing cultures in the most contemporary of ways is Camille Henrot’s incredible Grosse Fatigue. Set to slam poetry by Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh, it charts creation stories spanning Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and more; knowledge from the realms of science, anthropology and politics; histories of art, sex, capitalism and so much more, against found footage, photography, animation, and behind-the-scenes images of the Smithsonian in Washington. Totally exhilarating, it’s a hands down highlight of what’s on show here. Go see.


A year-long program of exhibitions, events, community programs, and research, Shanghai Project launched last weekend. From the outset, this one’s been notoriously tricky to pin down: at the opening curators Hans Ulrich Obrist (Serpentine Galleries, London) and Dr. Yongwoo Lee (Shanghai Himalayas Museum) described it as an “evolutionary” affair. Reading between the lines, that probably means certain elements are still TBC, but that’s partly the point: it’s a work in progress, aimed at sparking dialogue around sustainable futures for the next century.

This first phase (the second is an exhibition opening in April 2017) is a kind of multi-site, multidisciplinary festival of happenings all hinged around urbanism and sustainability. Shanghai Project’s HQ is a spectacular temporary pavilion by Japanese starchitect Sou Fujimoto. Positioned right in front of the Himalayas Center in Pudong, it will host screenings, exhibitions, and talks through the duration of the festival, plus a café and gift shop. Right now, that includes works by Xu Bing and Jenova Chen, plus neons by Douglas Coupland.

Engaging would-be designers, planners, and doers of tomorrow are two installations in nearby Century Park -- artist Liam Gillick's colorful head-in-the-hole panels inspired by the ballets of Oskar Schlemmer; and Liu Yi’s children’s pavilion, Seed Planet. The latter will host kids programs -- this month that includes a pop-up outdoor library and a garden workshop - while the other promises fun photo ops galore.

Further afield, group exhibition Qidian takes over Himalayas Museum’s Zhujiajiao outpost, normally reserved for an artist-in-residence program. Alongside a handful of young foreign artists, the show’s mainstay is emerging Chinese talents pooled from something called 89plus Project. That focuses on the baijiuhuo generation - or those born post-1989. Spanning installation, research, and a particularly strong film section, its position within the wider project seems confused. Still, the show contrasts nicely with its ancient surroundings, and is a very welcome escape from the water town’s weekend touts, tourists and, let’s be honest, tat.

A Community Project Participation program sees tons of opportunities to get involved, including city walks with Shanghai Flaneur, electronic circuit building with STEM Cloud Shanghai, urban farming, and film screenings across town. For all of that, plus venues, check the website.

STUDIO @ Qiao Space

QIAO is the eponymous gallery of mega-collector Qiao Zhibing. Best known for a string of night spots, they include a KTV called Shanghai Nights whose decor goes beyond the glitz to include works by the likes of Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, et al. He opened his West Bund art space last year, and by the end of 2016 will launch a brand new museum at the riverside hub inside a cluster of empty oil tankers.

Opened yesterday, STUDIO features precisely the kind of art world heavyweights someone like Qiao probably has on speed dial. Ding Yi’s there, as is Yang Fudong, Xu Zhen, Liu Xiaodong and Zhang Enli - but likely not as you’ve seen them before. Each were invited to share their studios, creative processes and ways of working. Most opt for photography, making for a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the practises of some of Chinese contemporary art’s biggest names.

Some, like Liu Wei’s studio, look almost like mini-factories, with teams of technicians working on the artist’s signature sculptures. Lending another dimension, there’s also small-size models of cityscapes crafted from dog chews, as featured in 2006 Love it! Bite it!. Liu Jianhua, meanwhile, offers an insight into the technical challenges behind his Blank Paper ceramics. Shot in China’s porcelain capital Jingdezhen, it documents the duds - due to cracks, color, glaze, or whatever - behind each piece of the seemingly simple series.

Also shining a light on the manufacturing side of art is Xu Zhen and MadeIn Company. Those saccharine sweet-looking Under Heaven paintings, all icing-like and tactile? They’re apparently not as carefree as appearances might have us believe.

This one’s not nearly as showy as the names on the poster would lead you to believe - and that’s precisely what makes it so interesting. Listing here.

And also… here's a ton more stuff going on. Dig in.

Art in the City returns with a brand new month-long festival format, kicking off with K11 exhibition, TAKE ME OUT featuring crossovers between art, design, and tech from big names like Liu Bolin and Qiu Zhijie alongside up-and-comers like Cai Dongdong, Wang Yefeng and Payne Zhu. There’s also a fashion showcase courtesy of super-curator Magda Danysz spanning photography, drawing, painting and video. BLAST! is back, this year covering both film and sound, plus bus tours, talks and loads more.

Photography buffs should head to PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai -- here’s what we made of yesterday’s private preview.

Alternatively, check out MadeIn’s new West Bund spot for group exhibition Information Sculpture Superhighway, and while you’re there, Hu Yun’s Narration Sickness at neighboring Aike Dellarco. Over at Moganshan Lu, there’s Jiang Pengyi’s ShanghART solo, Grace showcasing new photos charting changes in landscapes around the Arctic Circle. That opens today -- Friday -- from 4pm-7pm.

Head back to Moganshan Lu on Saturday, 4pm-7pm for Luo Yongjin’s Around at OFOTO; before meandering over to Pearl Lam Galleries for Turkish artist, Inci Eviner: exploring issues of gender, social order, and underrepresented groups, it grandly opens Saturday, 10 September from 5pm. Alternatively, stop by Magda Danysz Gallery from 4pm-7pm for Li Hongbo and Shi Ningfang’s Truth. The latter is known for classical-looking sculptural busts crafted from layers of paper to fold out, concertina-like; while Shi Ningfang is interested in the link between traditional Chinese and contemporary art.

Elsewhere, Korean import Arario Gallery hosts a mixed media show by Indonesian talent Eko Nugroho incorporating a spot of Japanese manga and a whole lot of masks (5pm-7pm for that); while m97 launches two solos: German photographer Michael Wolf alongside the late, great Fan Ho. Be there 6pm to 8pm for those.

Finally, Saturday sees the launch of new art space REFORMERart. With a focus on media art, that’s starting as it means to go on with a project by Shanghai-based internet artist aaajiao. Called , it’s essentially a digital landscape of banners depicting the wireframes of mainstream Chinese news portals from 1999 to 2016. Launches 3pm on Saturday, 10 September -- details here.


For all of that and more, check the art calendar.