It is no secret that I am in love with China. I got increasingly interested in its culture and art scene, especially after meeting and working with a few very talented Chinese artists. And now it is at the top of my list of places I want to visit as soon as possible. I was actually planning to go there this summer, but then life got in the way (or viruses I should say).

China is huge, but if there is one single city I am really looking forward to visiting, it is Shanghai.
It is said to be the contemporary art capital of China and one of the main cultural hubs of the country. It is bustling and exciting, it has hundreds of galleries, museums, art centers, and exhibitions at any given time, not to mention fairs and other art-related events.
Everyone I know that have visited the city or lives there told me the same thing: it is amazing, and I absolutely have to go!

So I started researching what Shanghai has to offer, to be fully ready for my trip when the time comes, and I did find out myself a lot of interesting places. Shanghai has an incredible number of contemporary art museums, so here are the top 3 on my bucket list.

Power Station of Art

I don’t know why, but I have a thing for former industrial buildings turned into contemporary art museums. I guess I am not the only one, but I find those places to be extremely fascinating. That is why Power Station of Art is at the top of my list. 

It is one of the biggest museums in Shanghai for contemporary art and China’s first state-run museum dedicated to the art of the XXth century. 

It was opened as a museum in 2012, but the building dates way back. Originally, it was the Nanshi Electric Plant, that lit the first light in China in 1897. It was used as a power plant until recent years, witnessing the many changes of this city throughout the XXth century. Eventually, in 2010, it was renovated for the Shanghai World Expo, and then turned into a museum in 2012. 

Power Station of Art hosts a vast variety of art-related events, aiming at stimulating the visitors and generating urban culture. It presents exhibitions by both Chinese and international artists, either well established or emerging, as well as several other activities. 

I particularly love how it has major exhibitions by international artists, as well as projects for emerging curators. It also hosts the Shanghai Biennale, the oldest art biennale in China, and one of the biggest in the world.

MoCA Shanghai – Museum of Contemporary Art | Image courtesy of MoCA 

MoCA Shanghai – Museum of Contemporary Art

Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art is definitely another place I want to visit. It was founded in 2005 as the first private contemporary art museum in China and it aims to promote cultural exchange between Shanghai and the rest of the world. The museum hosts both Chinese and international artists, promoting mutual understanding and a broader recognition of Chinese contemporary art both in China and around the globe. 

It is housed in a beautiful two-story glass building located within People’s Park, and close to some of the most interesting museums of Shanghai, such as the Shanghai Art Museum. 

The museum produces large scale exhibitions on art and design, both read as markers of the current times. It has collaborated with international museums and fashion brands, such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, as well as Salvatore Ferragamo, Chanel, Marimekko, and Pixar. It also hosted exhibitions produced together with important institutions, such as the Korea Foundation. 

Its main goal is to promote the exchange between the contemporary art scene in Shanghai and China with the rest of the world. To do so, together with the exhibitions and related events, MoCA holds a biennale, MoCA Envisage, which focuses on Chinese contemporary art and considers its recent direction and themes.

A Vision, text, image, edit: Larys Frogier; photography, video, edit: Liu Shuwei; soundtrack: Hilight Tribe

Rockbund Art Museum

Currently closed for renovations (it should reopen in 2021), Rockbund Art Museum is another place I don’t want to miss. Housed in the former Royal Asiatic Society building, established in 1932, it is one of the pioneer contemporary art museums in China. 

The building itself is a work of art. Built in the 1930s in the Art Deco style, it was unique in its genre in Shanghai at the time. The five-story building contained a lecture hall, a library, and a museum, and received over 7,000 visits per month, promoting the cultural exchanges between the city and the foreigner expats living in Shanghai. 

Today, it is still an important center for Shanghai contemporary art scene, with its exhibitions and events. Inaugurated in 2010, it hosts both Chinese and international artists, but it doesn’t have a permanent collection. Rather, as they state on their website “With a strong reputation for our innovative curatorial approach, we look to conceive different art projects. By supporting bold contemporary art practices, we aim to continually remake local histories, whilst also responding to global art challenges and social mutations. We regard the role of exchange as an essential process required for a wider transformation to occur by building up a network of multi-regional, international and cross-disciplinary partnerships.”

Now, tell me. Have you ever visited Shanghai? Or any of the museums I mentioned? 
Did you like the city and its art scene? And is there any other museum I should check? 
Are you interested in other destinations around Asia? Check the previous articles on Seoul and Tokyo.

Cover image by 丁亦然 on Unsplash