Travel
Orient express

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 40, Autumn 2014

Page 32

Travel
Orient express

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 40, Autumn 2014

Page 32

Travel
Orient express

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 40, Autumn 2014

Page 32

Travel
Orient express

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 40, Autumn 2014

Page 32

Travel
Orient express

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 40, Autumn 2014

Page 32

Shanghai's skyline is changing faster than the weather, says Philip Dodd

I have been visiting China once a month since 1998 and five years ago would have told anyone that Beijing is, and would always be, the center of the Chinese art world. It is where many of the most important artists still live, but recently I have begun to think that Shanghai is closer to New York; Beijing, to Washington.

In the 1920s and 30s, Shanghai, the Pearl of the Orient, was the city of international exchange and it seems to be shouldering that responsibility again. Maybe the explanation lies with the adventurous city government; perhaps the central government in Beijing decided that Shanghai should be the home of contemporary art. Whatever the explanation, no one can doubt that the central government is still the key player in culture as well as other aspects of life. It promotes art fairs, funds the Shanghai Biennale, gives land to collectors and developers to kick-start private museums of contemporary art and is funding the building of a major Chinese cultural space in Brussels.

The Shanghai Biennale will be held in November at the Power Station of Art, the first state-run contemporary museum of art in China. An enormous building, opened last year and visited recently by Anselm Kiefer – there is talk of a show by him there – it is set by the river, in Puxi, the western side of the city. Puxi views itself as markedly more refined than the recently developed Pudong, the city's east end, which was largely fields when I first visited 16 years ago. Since then, it has hosted the 2010 World Expo and now is the location of three of the city's most important private museums.

Apart from these new museums, seven art fairs will take place in the autumn – from the boutique Art and Design to PhotoShanghai, which may well herald a new interest in photography in China. What is of major importance is that Shanghai is developing an independent art sector. It was the philosopher Jürgen Habermas who said that the emergence of a commercial world allowed Europe to escape from the shadow of the Church and Absolute Monarchy in 18th-century Europe. Could China's entrepreneurial spirit help shrug off the State?

To see art commerce in action, visit M50 on Moganshan Lu, where a largish cluster of galleries, some much better than others, gather. There is ShanghART, one of the truly significant galleries in China, with a roster of important artists, from Yang Fudong to Zeng Fanzhi.

Vanguard Gallery offers an interesting program – of photography, painting and new media – demonstrating what can be done in a modest space. Meanwhile, Hakgojae is a Korean gallery, pulled to the city by gravitational forces, which has the first show in China of Nam June Paik this September. Other commercial galleries are spilt across the city. Near the Bund is Pearl Lam Gallery, with a roster of artists ranging from the fine Chinese painter and installation artist, Zhu Jinshi, to the Iranian Golnaz Fathi.

But perhaps the most significant development of this 'private world' is the emergence of private museums. To put this into perspective, last September I was in the city to give a lecture to 200 of these privately funded organizations. On the West Bund, there are two major new ones. Both museums are indispensable places to visit if the visitor wants to understand Chinese art of the past 30 years. The Yuz Museum puts that art in the context of global art – the large central gallery in this old aircraft hanger has a major installation by Adel Abdessemed, among others. Wang Wei's Long Museum Puxi, meanwhile, places Chinese contemporary art in the context of Chinese modern and traditional art. She has another museum in Pudong where there is the best collection of revolutionary art, probably in the world; and that museum is near to the Shanghai Himalayas Museum, in a strikingly designed building by Isozaki, which holds major shows of artists, including one that I am curating, of the work of Sean Scully. There is also a soon-to-be-opened second space for the Minsheng Bank Museum. And this is not to mention the Rockbund Art Museum, near the Bund, which is unflashy, but staging interesting shows.

The authority of Shanghai can hardly be doubted. However, more important even than all this growth is the next stage of development – which my crystal ball says is around three years away. So far, foreigners have had to travel to Shanghai to see Chinese art in galleries and museums. But soon shows from Chinese, and especially Shanghai museums will travel west, accompanying Chinese galleries who are more visible in western art fairs. Soon Shanghai will come to visit us. That will be truly revolutionary: the east is moving west.

Philip Dodd is Chairman of Made in China, curator, broadcaster and author.

When in Shanghai

Where to stay

Shanghai has three main areas: The Old City (temples and markets and the glorious Yu Gardens); the former concession areas (notably the French) that were once governed by the western powers, and Pudong, across the river, which was fields until the 1990s, and is now home to more than five million people.

Although taxis are very cheap, it helps to choose a hotel in the right area for what you are doing. On the Bund, in the old city, there are the historic hotels such as The Astor House Hotel, which could – and probably did – feature in The Lady from Shanghai. In 1911, it was le dernier cri in modernity, with telephones, 24-hour hot water and baths to put it in. Today, not all the rooms have these features, but you can't beat the historical fittings. I would go for a drink, and stay at either the chic PuLi or the Peninsula Shanghai with its excellent spa.

Pudong has one clear winner – the Mandarin Oriental. With views across the Huangpu river, the Mandarin has a terrific spa, four restaurants, and is stuffed with contemporary art. Even more importantly, it has a superb team of concierges who can sort out anything. And that is a resource you need in Shanghai.

For atmosphere, stay in a hotel set in one of the French concession villas (close to the embassies). Good places include Imperial Palace Club (it has a ballroom), Fenyang Garden Boutique Hotel and Hengshan Moller Villa (which marries Scottish baronial with Addams Family) L.B.

Where to eat

Michelle Garnaut, the owner of M on the Bund, lists her favourites

Lost Heaven Yunnan Folk Cuisine Delicious Yunnan cuisine in a chic nouveau-Yunnan setting. Jean Georges One of the Shanghai Bund classics – well executed French cuisine in a formal setting.

M on the Bund We serve classics rooted in modern European cuisine alongside dishes from the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East. Beautiful interior, too.

Ultraviolet Paul Pairet's all encompassing dining concept, part haute gastronomy, part performance art. Sell the Picasso, though, as innovative dining comes at a price (£300 per person, to be precise).

Pin Chuan The Sichuanese co-owner has employed a kitchen full of chefs from Sichuan, and it shows: dishes are authentic and spicy (with a helpful chilli-rating system) in a stylish environment.

Jesse's A classic, serving classic dishes. Book in advance.

Lynn A Shanghainese and Cantonese menu. All-you-can-eat-dim sum at weekends.

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