"No necessity of newness. Anyone expresses himself and allows you to look through his individual window on the world."
SHANGHAI, known as the 'Oriental Paris', is China's biggest and richest city (on aggregate). It is one of China's greatest economic and cultural centres; therefore, it is seen as a showcase for everything considered modern in China. But it has an edgy subculture too. The large creative district and the urban ghetto of Shanghai's art, set amongst the backdrop of restored factories and home to infamous Shanghai graffiti wall is the M50: A CITY WITHIN A CITY. M50 remains one of the most innovative places to see free art in the city.
In the heart of Shanghai, an aggregation of steel, cement and illuminated minds giving shape to a parallel intricate universe, M50 was established in 2000 by local artist Xue Song. Here you can find wild creatives from all over the world, art pieces unchained from the boundaries of canonical perfection, galleries speaking their own alphabet, inspiring cafes, disturbing glimpses and decay.
When you think about Chinese art the most diverse wonders gather into your mind, from calligraphy to bamboo carving, from porcelain to silk embroidery, from lacquerware to paper cutting. It is no coincidence if there are no immediate associations to that kind of conceptualised form of expression that has dominated most of the world since the birth of avant-garde movements at the beginning of the 20th century. Still today in China art remains surprisingly and inextricably connected to manual skills and ancient traditions. Even attending an exhibition where the role of ideas eclipses that of pure signs is not that simple for the wider public. But M50 is different.
"Still today in China art remains surprisingly
and inextricably connected to manual skills and
That sort of wholesome decay that imbues the entire titanic city from the future with the sweet charm of a broken toy. And that is not the only
difference between this citadel of artistic anarchy and similar realities throughout the planet.
Compensating a certain lack of deep comprehension
of the international panorama as a whole, what makes
exciting the exploration of the Shanghainese refuge for
creative talents is the general approach to the matter.
No formal etiquette, no snobbish guru, no ambitious
explanation over the impenetrable mind of an artist, no
rigidity due to the personal endless struggle against
what has been created already.
The most established galleries here include ShanghART
with a big, dramatic space showcasing the work of some
of the dozens of artists it represents. The forward-thinking,
provocative and downright entertaining island6 focuses on
collaborative works created in a studio behind the gallery.
Budding photographers should absolutely pop into DN Club,
with its classes using vintage SLRs and a dark room for
Most galleries are open from 10am to 6pm, with the majority closed Mondays.