Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Heart of Modern Art in Shanghai

50 Moganshan Road was a familiar name that I heard some of my friends talking about before I even came to Shanghai. They had told me about the art galleries and the many artists that exhibited their works there. I had imagined this area to be a very fancy museum type place similar to Bund 18 but to my surprise, we arrived in a location filled with buildings which seemed to me like abandoned warehouses. Even the elevators that we took were the kinds used to transport crates and other large objects when these buildings still served as factories. However, inside these buildings was office space and huge rooms with art pieces on display—everything ranging from murals of the Yuan Dynasty to paintings of Humphrey Bogart and a camel.

After I came back from the trip, I looked this area up online and found out that it has been the “cradle of Shanghai’s modern art scene” since 2000. It has attracted artists not only from China, but artists from all over the world to show their artworks here. What’s interesting is that a big portion of Moganshan’s audience is all foreigners. Contemporary art in China has only started receiving attention and getting noticed within the last seven or eight years. It is still a fairly new concept among the Chinese community. When we watched the film clip at Biz-Art about the contemporary art supermarket, you could see how many people there was that would normally not even step foot into an art gallery. They only went because of the publicity the place was getting and the fact that they could actually purchase these strange items to put in their own homes. China needs this kind of buzz or else people would never become interested in or even know about this new art form. I do have to say that some of the exhibitions in that film had made me wonder what art has turned into. Sometimes I feel like modern art has only become another transporting mechanism for businessmen to sell their products. On top of that, I don’t think that a woman walking around a tree unwinding cloth from her body is even considered art at all.

The exhibit that I enjoyed most at Moganshan was the one by Wei Guangqing at ShanghART. He took important scriptures from ancient times such as Sun Tzu's “Art of War” and Zhu Yongchun’s “The Zhu Family Instructions” and turned them into something very modern and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. This to me is what contemporary art should really be—something that still follows the tradition of the past and yet, is expressed in a way that it has never been before.

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