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China’s thriving contemporary arts scene received a boost in October when Shanghai opened two art institutions in conjunction with the launch of the Ninth Shanghai Biennale. The China Art Palace in the former China Pavilion in Pudong and the Power Station of Art in Puxi are located on opposite banks of the Huangpu River and occupy buildings used for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Shanghai hopes that these two landmark galleries will help the city promote itself as a destination for art connoisseurs.
Previously, the epicenter of Shanghai’s contemporary arts scene was M50, a cluster of art and photographic galleries housed in former textile mills in the north of the city near Suzhou Creek. Many of China’s most respected art purveyors, including ShanghART, OV Gallery and Eastlink, are still located here.
Since opening in the early 2000s, M50 has kick-started a mini wave of contemporary art gallery and museum openings across the city. The most notable are the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, located in a giant glass structure in the heart of People’s Square, and the Rockbund Art Museum, which opened in 2010 in the revamped Royal Asiatic Society building, which dates back to 1874 and is located one block back from the famous Bund.
Attention is now turning to the southeast of Shanghai, specifically the 2010 World Expo site that straddles the Huangpu River. Easily accessed by cab or metro, Shanghai officials hope that the city’s two new signature galleries will attain a profile similar to London’s Tate Modern or New York’s MoMA — and become major tourist attractions.
New ExhibitionsThe first thing to say about the Power Station of Art is that it feels huge. Clients will easily identify it from afar due to a towering brick chimney stack — with a red-and-white thermometer running up the center — part of the original power plant structure dating from the 1890s. Used as the Pavilion of the Future during the 2010 Expo, the Power Station is China’s first state-run contemporary art museum and plans to showcase popular post-1980’s Chinese and global art.
From now through the end of March, the museum is hosting the 2012-2013 Shanghai Biennale, which is curated by artist Qiu Zhijie and themed “Reactivation.” A well-known Parisian gallery is also lending a helping hand. Centre Pompidou has loaned the “Electric Fields: Surrealism and Beyond” collection, which is being exhibited until mid-March.
Excitement is now building for the next major show — the largest Andy Warhol retrospective in China, organized by the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and slated for late spring. “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal” — which has previously toured to Singapore and Hong Kong — will feature 300 works, but will sadly be missing Warhol’s iconic ink portraits of Chairman Mao, which have been removed for the Shanghai and subsequent Beijing shows.
Across the river in Pudong, the China Art Palace has taken over the centerpiece structure of the 2010 World Expo. Cast in eye-catching red and more than 200 feet tall, the China Pavilion was nicknamed the Crown of the East, as its design was inspired by an ancient Chinese crown. Claiming the world’s largest collection of modern Chinese art, the Art Palace charts the development of modern art in China since the Qing Dynasty alongside a collection of 20th-century propaganda art and socialist-realist sculptures. Many works of art from the former Shanghai Art Museum, located in the heritage Jockey Club building on People’s Square, have been transferred here.
Like its Power Station sibling, the China Art Palace has no lack of display space, and its upper floors are home to visiting exhibitions, including collections from the Museum of New Zealand and the British Museum. Until the end of February, Musee d’Orsay from Paris is loaning its “Millet, Courbet and Naturalism in France” collection.
For many years, Beijing has benefited from being the heartland of China’s arts scene — now Shanghai is raising the stakes. Let the art battle commence.
China Art PalaceZone A, Pudong Road, near Shangnan RoadWorld Expo Park Pudong
Power Station of ArtLane 20, Huayuangang Road, near Miaojiang Road
Rockbund Art Museumwww.rockbundartmuseum.org
Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghaiwww.mocashanghai.org