The Shanghai Exhibition Center plays host to November’s Art021 fair.
Photo: Courtesy of Art021

Shanghai’s Art and Design Scene Heats Up

The Chinese city’s cultural boom produces a series of captivating fairs, new gallery spaces, and groundbreaking retail that combines fashion and art
A view along Shanghai’s colorful Nanjing Road, one of the city’s busiest shopping destinations. Photo: Dukai/Getty Images

A century ago, Shanghai helped define the cosmopolitan world city, attracting travelers to the “Paris of the East” with cutting-edge art, architecture, fashion, and nightlife. Today, the city exerts the same pull, and with an explosion of new galleries, fairs, and private museums, it rivals Beijing as China’s cultural capital. From the Art Deco buildings along the Bund and the leafy lanes of the former French Concession to the avant-garde monuments of global starchitects, here are the places to feel Shanghai’s new creative pulse.

This November, Art021 will bring over 100 international galleries to the historic halls of the Shanghai Exhibition Center, a 1955 gift from the Soviet Union, while West Bund Art & Design will fill the sprawling West Bund Art Center on the banks of the Huangpu River, near some of the city’s newest, and most ambitious, private museums, with exciting works of modern and contemporary art.

Collector Qiao Zhibing recently opened Tank Shanghai, a 645,000-square-foot cultural hub comprised of five disused oil tanks, which has featured the likes of teamLab and Adrián Villar Rojas, as well as Chinese icons Zeng Fanzhi and Ding Yi. Nearby is collector Budi Tek’s Yuz Museum Shanghai, which recently announced a collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and has hosted Maurizio Cattelan and KAWS alongside a permanent installation of Random International’s immersive exhibition Rain Room. In the same vicinity are the Long Museum, currently showing Mark Bradford in a special collaboration with Hauser & Wirth, and the Power Station of Art, home to the Shanghai Biennale (which will mount its next edition in 2020).

The K11 Art Mall combines retail and compelling installations like Silhouette of the Sea. Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai K11

Further upriver, the Heatherwick Studio– and Foster + Partners–designed Fosun Foundation, part of the Bund Finance Center, is known for its eye-catching façade of moving golden curtains and contains galleries and a performance space. Another commercial-cultural crossover is the innovative K11 Art Mall, the brainchild of Hong Kong collector-entrepreneur Adrian Cheng, which fuses art and retail with an edgy exhibition program overseen by acclaimed curator Venus Lau. Not far away in Jing’an, Prada painstakingly restored Rong Zhai, a 1918 villa used as a dedicated space for fashion and art events.

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In addition to Western brands, a wave of blue-chip Western galleries have been opening shop in Shanghai, most recently Almine Rech, which joins Perrotin, Lisson Gallery, and the offices of Hauser & Wirth and Lévy Gorvy. Shanghai’s first galleries were clustered in the M50 Moganshan district but now span the city; must-sees include the pioneering ShanghART, founded by Lorenz Helbling in 1996, and trendsetters like Antenna Space, Capsule, and Bank, where one can scope out emerging talents before they’re tomorrow’s stars.

The Piero Lissoni–designed Middle House hotel. Photo: Courtesy of The Middle House

Several new design-minded hotels have sprouted, such as the art-world favorite Middle House, conceived by Piero Lissoni and boasting art commissions from over 20 Chinese and international artists such as Shanghai’s own Caroline Cheng. Other favorites sure to attract the creative set come fair season are the Shanghai Edition, popular for its green rooftop garden (complete with croquet), and the Bulgari, featuring the brand’s signature artisanal chocolate laboratory, Il Cioccolato. On the outskirts of town, the luxe Amanyangyun resort is a design feat, with architecture salvaged from a Qing dynasty village and a forest of 10,000 ancient camphor trees.

Prada Rong Zhai, a meticulously restored historic early 20th-century mansion in central Shanghai. Photo: Prada

For visitors hoping to take home a bit of Shanghai’s freshest style, the Artling is a new by-appointment showroom for art objects and design pieces set in a minimalist campus created by local architects Neri&Hu. Shanghai’s homegrown The Beast started out as a high-concept flower shop but now offers home wares and niche beauty products at multiple locations. Fashion-forward shoppers shouldn’t miss Dong Liang Studio and Labelhood, two platforms that curate the best of Chinese independent designers.

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At the end of a long day, the city’s dining scene beckons—from the immersive experience of Michelin three-star Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet and Fu He Hui’s haute spin on vegetarian cuisine to elevated Chinese-American comfort food at Heritage by Madison. And after dark, Shanghai’s hidden cocktail bars come alive, like Speak Low and Sober Company from Japanese mixologist Shingo Gokan. It’s worth decompressing over innovative craft cocktails knowing that the next day, there’s a whole city’s worth of art and culture still to explore.

A tomato-mozzarella dish at chef Paul Pairet’s restaurant Ultraviolet. Photo: Scott Wright/Li

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Late Fall issue under the headline “Far and Away.” Subscribe to the magazine.

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