In colonial times, Shanghai was known as the Paris of the Orient for its grand boulevards, gracious Western-style architecture and oh-so-worldly denizens. Although much of that city has been bulldozed, replaced by a metropolis of phantasmagoric skyscrapers, that spirit of sophistication and culture lives on, and the two-year-old ShContemporary art fair is one of its most vibrant expressions.
WHAT: Launched by the former Art Basel director Lorenzo Rudolf in 2007, ShContemporary was the first major art fair to hit China. This year, Colin Chinnery, the former chief curator of Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, takes the reins, promising to steer the event in lively and provocative new directions.
WHEN: September 10 to 13
WHERE: Shanghai Exhibition Center
HIGHLIGHTS: "It’s not a secret that it’s going to be a tough year for us," says the Anglo-Chinese Chinnery. After enduring insider squabbles and high-profile departures, the fair now faces the challenge of a deflated art market and strong competition from Art HK, a sprightly Hong Kong fair that launched in 2008, and this past May booked such galleries as White Cube and Gagosian. But Arthur Solway, the director of the New York gallery James Cohans Shanghai outpost, has faith in ShContemporary. "Everybody always comes through Shanghai," he points out. "They want to see the city."
At this year’s fair, Solway will be showing tapestries by Fred Tomaselli, Gary Hume and Beatriz Milhazes. Under Chinnery, ShContemporary will be a much more curated event. He has handed direction of the Discoveries section, a large hall of commissioned artworks, over to a team composed of the Russian-American artist and e-flux founder Anton Vidokle, the Chinese artist Wang Jianwei, and Mami Kataoka, the senior curator at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum. Chinnery has also invited the critics Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hal Foster and the artist Martha Rosler to lecture.
As ShContemporary officially kicks off the fall art season in Shanghai, here is what visitors will find around town: The new Minsheng Art Museum, backed by the bank of the same name, will open this September with the acclaimed Chinese artist Zhou Tiehai at the helm. The James Cohan Gallery is mounting a group show of young American artists, including Trenton Doyle Hancock, Erick Swenson and Alison Elizabeth Taylor. The Bund 18 Creative Center, renamed 18Gallery, will present a video-art exhibition titled "Faces," featuring Ultralab, P. Nicolas Ledoux and Erwin Olaf. This year for the first time, the new-media arts initiative eArts will hold an exhibition at the Oriental Pearl Tower during the fair, as well as mounting a show from September 13 to October 11 at MOCA Shanghai, directed by Christophe de Jaeger. Pearl Lams Contrasts Gallery will feature contemporary ink-brush paintings, with works by André Kneib, Wang Tiande and Hans Hartung.
Without a doubt this hotel will be the king of its class when it greets its first visitors later this month. Located next to the former British Consulate estate, it will also be the first significant building on the Bund in almost 80 years.
32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu
The city’s chicest boutique hotel is also one of its most comfortable, thanks to the company’s "home" concept ("jia" is Mandarin for "home"). Just a 10-minute walk from the Shanghai Exhibition Center, this sequel to the chain’s Philippe Starck-designed outpost in Hong Kong has outfitted its 55 rooms with ultramodern interiors that will satisfy the most ravenous design aficionado.
931 West Nanjing Lu
The self-described "carbon-neutral" URBN was built from recycled materials, such as slate and stone from demolished structures. The result is a sleek and eco-friendly hotel with a beautiful courtyard restaurant. "I’ve been telling people to stay at the URBN, which is at the heart of a cool neighborhood," says Solway, noting its location — shared by the fair — in the Jing An district.
183 Jiaozhou Lu
In the ever-changing Shanghai restaurant world, Laris manages to maintain its top spot. "I like to take collectors to Laris. I like the view, and the service is good," says Solway. "I’ve never had a disappointing meal there, and afterward the best thing is to take a walk up to the Bund for a drink."
Three on the Bund, 6th Floor
3 Zhongshan Dong Yilu
Mr. And Mrs. Bund
Located a bit north along the Bund, the city’s popular dining destination, this new entrant to the culinary scene has quickly gained buzz for its inventive Shanghai-inspired but deeply French cuisine. "I love bringing people for dinner, then having a drink at Lounge18," says Magda Danysz, the art director of 18Gallery.
Bund 18, 6th Floor
18 Zhongshan Dong Yilu
Shanghai is full of historic architecture left over from the French and British eras. One of the restored villas houses Fu1088, a stately Chinese restaurant decorated with Old-World charm. "If my visitors want more of the local sensibility, I take them to Fu1088 for a Shanghainese meal," says Defne Ayas, a curator for Performa.
375 Zhenning Lu
Short for 50 Moganshan Lu, M50 is Shanghai’s reigning art district, with a nucleus of artists’ studios — Zhou Tiehai, Gu Wenda and Wang Xingwei have spaces there — and galleries, including the city’s best-known and longest-running establishment, ShanghART (50 MOGANSHAN lu, BLDGS 16 &18; 86-21/6359-3923), founded by Lorenz Helbling. Despite the proliferation of smaller and less critical galleries in other areas of the city, M50 is "still where all the artists’ studios are," says Helbling.
The Bund, the picturesque strip of Art Deco and Beaux Arts buildings lining Shanghai’s riverfront, is better known for its restaurants, but it also hosts some A-list galleries, such as Three on the Bund’s Shanghai Gallery of Art (BUND 3, 3RD FLOOR; 86-21/6321-5757) and Bund18’s relaunched 18Gallery (Bund 18, 4th Floor, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yilu; 86-21/6323-9828), now led by Magda Danysz, of Galerie Magda Danysz, in Paris.
The People's Park
The geographic and sentimental heart of Shanghai, this park within the massive People’s Square also houses some of Shanghai’s most important cultural institutions, including the Shanghai Art Museum (325 Nanjing Xi Lu; 86-21/6327-2829), the privately run MOCA Shanghai (231 Nanjing Xi Lu; 86-21/6327 1282; mocashanghai.org) and the Shanghai Museum (201 Renmin Avenue; 86-21/6372 5300; shanghaimuseum.net), which holds one of the world’s finest collections of Chinese antiquities.
In one of the great recent restorations in Shanghai, luxury giant Richemont renovated a pair of 1920s Neoclassical villas in the former French Concession to house shops for two of its brands: Alfred Dunhill (86-21/5454-8699; dunhill.com/en-row/thehomes/shanghai) and Vacheron Constantin (86-21/3395-0800; vacheron-constantin.com). Set on a quiet lane off busy Huaihai, the three-story balconied mansions are also home to the Shanghai outpost of the Kee Club (796 Huaihai lu middle; 86-2/5404 8699), which is members-only in Hong Kong (and famous for its dim sum), but the bar and dining room are open to the public here. The villas also host a branch of ShanghART (796 Huaihai lu Middle; 86-21/3395 0808), which Helbling characterizes as "smaller but architecturally more beautiful" than the M50 version.
Founded by the proprietors of Shanghai’s chic Shintori and People restaurants, this shop works with Chinese artisans and designers to create some of the freshest — as well as affordable — sculptural ceramics for the home.
758 Julu Lu, Bldg 3
Dongtai Lu Antiques Market
The well-traveled corridor of Dongtai Lu has just the bazaarlike atmosphere one hopes to find on a free afternoon. Vintage city maps, Mao memorabilia and old black-and-white photographs are among the small, unique treasures you may discover. "Get lost in the antiques market, and sample some dim sum in some local place around Yu Yuan," advises gallerist Magda Danysz.
Dongtai Lu, Near Xizhang Lu; Open daily 10 to dusk.
Cafés, clothing boutiques and restaurants have recently sprung up amid a cluster of charming Shanghai alley houses in this corner of the French Concession. They include such shops as ShirtFlag (RM. 8, NO. 7, LANE 210, TAIKANG LU; 86-21/6466-7009), which sells original T-shirts and canvas bags by the local graphic designer JiJi, and has developed a cultlike following. "The young designers down there are always doing something cool and fun," says Solway.