Sunday involved a lot of walking, and a lot of sweating, but we enjoyed seeing a slice of Shanghai.
First off, we headed for the art district known at Moganshan 50
. This is a massive collection of studios and galleries in an old industrial site on Suzhou creek. It was a series of blocks used for storage and shipment, later colonised by artists seeking cheap rents. It is inexorably moving upmarket and a number of smart galleries have moved in, but there are still many original artists working there.
Of course, many other places have pulled off the same trick, including Phoenix Studios in Brighton, but others could take note, not least the abandoned market next to the Architecture School in Rome. Inevitably, we discovered nothing about the ownership or management of the M50 site just by our casual visit.
We visited many different floors, rooms and buildings on our wandering around. The most exciting to us was the Liu Dao art collective, found at Island 6. This group of artists, engineers, fabricators and makers are bringing together a range of techniques to create wonderful animated pieces. (The picture is taken from their site at www.island6.org.) Similarly Lee Sun-Don fuses millennial Chinese art traditions with western painting since the Renaissance to produce bright, detailed landscapes. It was a great visit, and it's probably a good thing we cannot manage to transport any works on our onward trip or we would have been spending money!
Overall, there was a feel reminiscent of Berlin in the 1990's, with much of the work heavily theorised and described by its makers. Exhibition labels are articulate (and lengthy) about the extraordinary changes being reflected by the artists, the need to articulate and examine the emerging China and its relationship to different political and artistic histories. It's an enormously exciting time to be working here and it was a privilege to see a little bit of the output. M50 is a small trek from Shanghai Railway Station but well worth it. (The cafes on site are exorbitantly expensive and not worth the bother.)