What we have gleaned as humble new-comers to Shanghai is that the first two stops for artist-seekers, sidestepping the glitzy commercial galleries (no artists there), are the famous labyrinthine Moganshan Lu (M50) and the smaller scale up-and-coming Hong Fang (Red Town).
Hong Fang (= Red Town)
570-588 West Hua Hai Rd,Shanghai, METRO: Hong Qiao Rd (line 10)
Formerly a factory complex, ‘Red Town’ has been converted into a sculpture park with indoor and outdoor display areas, actual working studios, a number of galleries and – yey! – artsy coffee shops. At the grassrootsy end of the spectrum HONG FANG has a gallery of for-sale amateur art produced by art classes on-site. The gaudy colourful unframed canvases randomly hung or just stacked up willy-nilly look like the enthusiastic products of teenage art students. I don’t know whether they actually are, and cannot find out because (and this is a huge daily obstacle to my appreciation of many, many things) I don’t speak Chinese.
Prices seemed to be in the range of what we see in northern English provincial galleries. At the Red Bridge Gallery, artist Fang Li Jun was selling work for 30,000 Yuan (c.£3,000) while artist Luo Fan’s prints were 3000 Yuan (c.£300). Best place in our opinion in Hong Fang (though there are some really lovely small gallery spaces too, beautifully lit) is the Mingshen Photographic Museum. See Mike’s post (to follow).
I guess that curatorial notes worldwide share the common factor of fundamental meaninglessness, and when the notes are, furthermore, translated, they can become the daftest nonsense. Whatever. I’m reproducing some of the notes here alongside “Sue’s pick”: three figurative pieces which don’t represent the spectrum of sculptures at Hong Fang because about half of the stuff is bright plasticky pop-arty kitsch. Which is fine if you like it, and I’m guessing it’s one thing that is selling in Shanghai. Being me, I home in on anything about the body, always trying to get a handle on the place, in contemporary Chinese art, of the nude and of whether work is done from a live model.
‘The sculptor employs some of the actions typical of the history of the fine arts to achieve a formation that stands for the humble status and the deteriorating environment. The clouds have something to say for surrounding conditions.’
I picked some of Michael’s photos of this sculpture because they stand in their own artistic right, like portraits; a further aesthetic layer coming from the original piece which itself came from the posing models (…or did it? Is this sculpture from life?).
‘The sculptor’s accurate and exquisite modelling skills make possible the portrait of a lass brimmed with the beauty of youth.’
I picked out this sculpture of a female nude because there weren’t any other female nudes. Or male nudes. Hmm. Haven’t seen any male nudes. At all. Other than the figures included in ‘Complex Cloud’ (above).
‘Food and sex are two of the basic elements for survival and life reproduction.’
Is this kitsch? When I recently tried to define ‘kitsch’ for my class of Korean Branding Design students, I said it was anything that a German would not let into their house. But I can immediately think of Germans I know who’d love this. Anyway. I think it’s very Shanghai.