“Lots of folks that visit Shanghai believe the art landscape is M50,” says guide Arthur Humeau, referring to an older industrial district of town that’s been transformed into an arts center. To prove that is not the situation, the Frenchman kicks his Chang Jiang 750 bike into existence as I clamber into the sidecar, and we all roar off in a fascinating tour of town.
The tour was organised by Shanghai Insiders, a set which features city guides by motorbike for two or one people. The excursions are tailored to exactly what people want to see, beginning from 800 yuan (US$120) for a one-hour trip.
“Art galleries are very spread out and may be difficult to find in Shanghai — it is hard to acquire from 1 gallery to another,” states Catherine Ferguson, general manager of Shanghai Insiders and also creator of the tour I am on.
The assembly point for the tour is the Andaz resort in the fashionable Xintiandi dining and entertainment district, from where we venture to the lanes of the town’s “Old Town”. Being in the sidecar, you are nearer to the street and feel a part of the street scene. Folks turn and look, attracted from the bike’s horizontal twin engine’s rhythmic chatter. As we distribute through the people, the ride is comfortable, no matter the jarring I anticipate from the roads.
Our first stop is a gallery tucked away to a 1930s-era building’s floor a few roads away from the Bund. The gallery, called About Space, could be hard to find with no introduction. Neither is it a permanent stop in the itinerary: based on Ferguson, galleries visited vary based on what displays are now underway.
When we fell in, About Space was hosting an exhibition called “Collective Individualism IV”– the title a play on Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious of humankind. Featured paintings from 11 artists in a contemporary Chinese style, for example artist Alois Lichtsteiner.
“This is the first time Lichtsteiner’s job was shown in Asia,” says gallery owner Ming Ming, pointing at the paintings. “They are of the Alps, however there’s a Zen-like connection between every piece on display. East and West can comparison, but they can also match.”
Insight is the thing that sets the Insiders’ tours Ferguson states. “When you go to a art gallery in China, generally the only person there will be little more than a security guard to prevent you touching the art, also will know very little about those pieces or artist. That is the reason why we make appointments, to make sure that there is somebody to introduce the art.”
Since we set off to our next spot, Humeau describes a little about the background of his renovated Chang Jiang 750 and its own sidecar — the quality that makes Insiders’ tours stand out. Made for the military, the motorbikes are according to the 1956 Soviet IMZ, which was based by the 1930s on the R71 motorcycle of BMW. Humeau says his glistening black bike came out of the paint shop the preceding day.
Our gallery, Artwork+, takes us to within a stone’s throw of Suzhou Creek, whose monies are home to quite a few art spaces. In the pub, co-owner and director Agnes Cohade, from France, introduces us to an exhibition of works by artist Wang Haichuan.
The pieces have a dreamlike quality using their collages that are juxtaposed of contrasting scenes. Wang uses various substances due to his canvases, including windows that are older, but it is his use of newspaper that stands out.
“The newspaper was used in Tibet for decades and is created out of a toxic root,” Cohade clarifies. “The reason that they use this in Tibet is that it is not eaten by bugs so it has a rather amazing longevity, making it appropriate for files like religious scriptures.”
We’ve got a short hop across head and the lake beyond the Shanghai Sihang Warehouse Battle Memorial to accomplish also a regular tour stop set in the Foh Sing bread mill construction and also our second gallery, ArtCN. Designed by Atkinson & Dallas, a historic Shanghai-based architectural practice, the construction is listed as a rare instance of an early 1900s industrial structure. The gallery preserves a lot of the feel of the original construction with its inner wooden beams.
The exhibition on display is “Land(e)scapes” from Nicolas Lefeuvre, a French artist now based in Hong Kong whose strategy mostly focuses on approaches he picked up while living in Japan.
“These are very personal functions, sensual and exploratory, in which golden in indigo triggers the lighting of an informative town,” states Anne-Cecile Noique, the gallery’s French proprietor. Lefeuvre sprinkles it after it has almost dried into indigo paint, that is applied by roller, although Gold powder is generally used from the Japanese to repair broken ceramics. (The gallery is presently displaying the China photographs of former Police guitarist Andy Summers.)
Up is Zhou Fan’s exhibition “Melt” at the Art Labor gallery. Born in Taiyuan, Zhou now lives in Shanghai, and he works with new media like light and video boxes and both canvas. The paintings “Melt” have been from his new series, “Phobia”.
“They research the interaction between individuals and the environment,” states the gallery’s Canadian proprietor Martin Kemble. “Brightness, stimulation and higher intensity of colors, and delicate traces represent subtle or strong inner disposition changes.”