In 2013-14 Elizabeth Wilson was a contributor of art, design and cultural theory reviews, for 'On the Ground' 4art.com
a website run and funded by ArtReview, London.
An Oasis of Art in the Jumble of Shanghai http://4art.com/page/an-oasis-of-art-in-the-jumble-of-shangha
Was that a Damien Hurst Sculpture next to a Mini Pig Farm in a Mall in Shanghai? http://4art.com/page/was-that-a-damien-hurst-sculpture-next-to-a-mini-pig-farm-in-a-ma
Warhol in China http://4art.com/page/warhol-in-china-1
Shanghai's DAFF brings a SURGE of creative power to the Waterfront http://4art.com/page/shanghai-s-daff-brings-a-surge-of-creative-power-to-the-waterfron
Shanghai's PowerStation of Art http://4art.com/page/shanghai-s-power-station-of-art
An Oasis of Art in the Jumble of Shanghai
After I first visited the James Cohan Gallery in the heat of the Shanghai Summer of 2012, I questioned myself ‘was that real or imagined’? This hidden gallery with its large, splendid inner-city garden felt a little bit exotic. I could imagine the best parties taking place there, with musical notes floating through the air. The building is oriental and Art Deco in style, which felt as if I was travelling back in time to pay respect to history, and then traveling forward as I viewed the art, which was mystery and attitude incarnate… maybe I had heat stroke? I had to get out of my head, investigate some more, find out if this place was an amalgamation of the past, the now, and the future; or if it was just another time capsule of current trends.
What I found at the James Cohan Gallery satisfied my obsession for thoughts-as-art, art-as-thoughts, and more. The first New York Gallery to establish itself in Mainland China took the leap in 2008 and set up a sister space in China’s emerald city. The result is a realm of calm in the former French Concession, where artistic ideas, explorations, and transformations take place. Music, poetry-reading, and art talks are all commonplace here. In the garden, one will from time to time also encounter ‘Soundscape’, a collaborative event with the French Consulate, as part of the Fête de la Musique, co-organized by Institut Français de Chine.
Lets meet Arthur Solway, the man who founded this unique space within the pulsating and thriving city of Shanghai.
Elizabeth Wilson (EW): James Cohan Gallery is the only New York based gallery here in Shanghai, and you’ve been here since 2008. In my opinion you are well ahead of the pack! What spurred the decision to set up a sister space in Shanghai?
Arthur Solway (AS): I had a long and personal interest in China and Chinese culture, and the Asia region. I had worked and lived in New York for thirty years and thought it was time for a change—a radical change. When I first started thinking about relocating back in 2005-2006, Shanghai was generating a lot of buzz in the West. Our New York gallery was already doing business in Korea and Japan for a number of years, with also a bit of activity in Taiwan, but I sensed Shanghai would be a great place to live and establish our presence. I fell in love with the architecture in Shanghai; I loved the tree-lined streets of the former French Concession, where the gallery is located. I understood the risks. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Being the first New York gallery to establish itself in Mainland China was clearly in my mind. I knew it was the right time to come; I needed to be here.
EW: I read that you quoted famed Swiss curator Harald Szeemann’s wish that exhibitions move away from both market forces and the Victorian urge to classify culture; instead they meet somewhere in the middle, as "poems in space." Is this concept shared with the NYC gallery? And how would you describe the kind of art that defines galleries?
AS: I’m glad you brought this up. Szeemann was, without question, the innovator of how we think of curators today. And though I was lucky enough to meet him a few brief times, I continue to think about his work and how he thought about collaborations with artists and exhibition-making. You are right, too, about his notion of declassifying culture or artistic movements. Szeeman had this visionary impulse to defy that notion of classification, bridging past and present, antiquity with the contemporary. I like to think that he had a profound and uncanny understanding of the historical imagination. Today there are few who can match Szeemann’s innovations to how exhibitions are made and experienced. While I like that he is often credited as turning the curatorial practice into an art form, he wasn’t driven by some ego-maniacal urge to make the exhibition more important than the artists, to make the curator the star, or overshadow the works of art themselves. In fact, it was quite the opposite. As for how this philosophy is shared by the gallery in New York, I can say that we have prepared a number of extraordinary theme-based exhibitions over the years where we openly explore ideas or specific subjects in the public realm. The gallery is and must always be a platform for ideas, and for artists who are transforming the way we see and experience the world. Does this mean we’re not interested in the market? Of course we’re interested. It isn’t going away. It is impossible not to consider the market in a world where the exchange of ideas and information, as well as hard goods, have increasingly dominated everyone’s lives and it would be naïve to think otherwise. Even the Venice Biennale is affected by market forces.
EW: Three months ago you had an exhibition of Lower East Side artists showing in the Shanghai gallery. Is this reciprocal?
AS: A couple of summers ago we asked Leo Xu, who was my former Assistant Director in Shanghai at the time, to select a group of young emerging artists from China and curate a show at our New York gallery. The show had a dreamy poetic title Catch the Moon in the Water– a lovely nod to the ancient poet Li T’ai Po. It was also a rather wry or ironic title that suggested the overarching ambitions for some younger artists here in China. The artists in this exhibition were for the most part born after 1977, and were the post Mao or post Cultural Revolution generation.
The Downtown: A View of the Lower East Side came later and was initiated by two of my younger colleagues back in New York, Jessica Lin Cox and William Pym. They had the terrific idea to showcase a few of the galleries that had recently emerged in the Lower East Side area of New York and were gaining prominent positions, and eight artists who exhibit with and are represented by those galleries. The exhibition was about the grassroots vitality of this neighborhood, adjacent to New York’s Chinatown and the Bowery, which has a vibrant and long history with visual artists and galleries, writers and intellectuals. It seemed like the perfect kind of exhibition to do in Shanghai for its fresh and energetic information, a kind of snapshot of what was going on in New York right now.
EW: The building is in a special (slightly mysterious) location, down an alley, in an old colonial villa with a large garden, in the former French Concession. How do you use this wonderful space to your advantage?
AS: Mysterious! I like that word. Oasis is more accurate. It took me a long time to find this beautiful building, nearly a year. The advantage is that people who come here are truly interested to see what we’re doing and are genuinely interested in art. We did not take a space in the more popular art districts like M50 Moganshan Road or down along the river on The Bund, which get a lot of tourist and local traffic. There are, however, several other galleries in our neighborhood, such as Leo Xu Projects and Don Gallery, and Art Labor. But I wanted a landmark Art Deco building where collectors would see how one might live with contemporary art, and where the setting, with our charming garden and the architecture, would be inspiring for the artists who show with us. It has a more European flavour than your pretentious, super-sized white concrete boxes that are so impersonal and commonplace.
EW: What are you, at the James Cohan Gallery Shanghai, looking forward to in the future?
AS: We are excited about our upcoming fall show with the painter Jun Jun Hu (opening September 12). She has made a gorgeous series of new paintings based on ancient Chinese landscape paintings. It takes the tradition of landscape painting from the past five thousand years and jettisons it into another realm. The work addresses ideas about minimalism, process, and meditation—think Buddhism and the grids of Piet Mondrian. You will never look at the contours, curves and peaks, and vistas of a mountain range in the same way ever again….
- Arthur Solway is the Founding Director of James Cohan Gallery Shanghai
I am feeling inspired, I am feeling passionate about art, about the ideas it generates and the processes of its creation. I am definitely prepared to lose myself again, in the art of the James Cohan Gallery and in the Shanghai summer heat.
Was that a Damien Hurst Sculpture next to a Mini Pig Farm in a Mall in Shanghai?
K11 Art Mall is situated in the centrally located area of Xintiandi, an area where traditional cultural architecture has been uniquely conserved and synthesized with modern building.
K11 is a multicultural art and shopping area, which seems to be redefining the way one views art. Here you can feel free to sip on your urban-farm-fresh organic juice while mulling over the conflict between the vulnerable and the powerful in Damien Hurst’s Copper sculpture ‘Wretched War’. After that you can shop at any of the high-end boutiques, marveling at the art that is a Vivien Westwood couture creation. Then check out that pig farm on the 3rd floor, yes – seriously, as ironic as that may seem in such close proximity to a Damien Hurst creation (considering his fascination with preserved animals). Hide the formaldehyde people!
The K11 concept, like that of its sister complex in Hong Kong, is to bring art, people and nature together in harmony. It’s about the transformation of a living community, where an inside oasis can be found. The Art Director of K11 Shanghai writes, “Against a background of music orchestrated by sounds of waterfalls and birdchirps, you immediately fall into a haven scented with the sweetness of hundreds of flowers. Nature, life … what an astonishing realm!” I didn’t smell any flowers but as I walked past the little pig farm I thought ‘is this really where we are heading?’ The outside brought inside to make it feel like the outside because we have overrun the outside with people and pollution… and I’ll have a little art on top of that please!
Here’s a quick run down of what I experienced in about an hour…
Huge stainless steal butterflies fused onto a vertical installation of green plants on the buildings exterior made by the ‘Sui Jianguo Studio’. On entrance; Air-Port-City/Cloud-City/ 15-18 Cloud Modules 30, by artist Tomas Saraceno. Down in Basement 1, a coffee and a scone from Baker & Spice. A drink bottle/thermos shop with exorbitant prices. Large ink drops which look like explanation marks in a work titled ‘Trace’ by artist Liu Jianhua. A bathroom stop at some highly mosaicked toilets. Back up to Level 1 to view ‘Garland necklace’ by Jean-Michel Othoniel. Up to Level 2 to see a Damien Hurst, then on to the Pig Farm?! Some Vivien Westwood window-shopping. Further up to see ‘I love you our generation’ by Gao Xiaowu, down to see ‘New Andy Warhol research’ by Lee Leenam. Shops, escalators, elevators, organic signs, shoes, pigs, art, pigs… I felt a little nauseous.
After gathering my wits, I found that there is an art space solely for art (Phew). ‘Chi,’ - Basement level 3. Here you will find more of the familiar exhibition ‘space’ where you can breathe, and properly inhale the art… in the spaces in-between each work.
An incredible installation by the Finnish Artist Kaarina Kaikkonen takes up a section of 'Chi's', space. Kaikkonen is famous for her creations where the boundaries between sculpture, installation, architecture and nature tend to blur and disappear. Here she has created an ‘emotional landscape,’ using hundreds of secondhand shirts strung-up in a prayer flag like fashion. The installation has a powerful and calming effect, like the feelings I’ve experienced standing near a Buddhist Stupa. Clear, clean and comfortably encompassing. I had finally found my space within this “astonishing realm.”
‘In Art We Live,’ is the hovering slogan at the entrance to one of the inside K11 art areas, (just past Baker & Spice, and a slew of other shops, Basement level 1). Indeed here you can eat, drink, shop and view art by well known Chinese and International artists all at the same time … but only if you’re up for that kind of stimulation!
Warhol in China
Until the 28th of July 2013, there are over 400 artworks by Andy Warhol on display at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai. It is one of the most comprehensive shows of the artist’s work ever put together, with all works coming entirely from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
When walking into the exhibition, I am immediately struck with how charming Warhol’s early works in ink and graphite on paper are, and what wonderful insights into his younger days too. When Andy was a boy, he suffered from a disease of the nervous system that kept him out of school a lot and consequently lead to his unusual complexion. His mother encouraged him to draw, and his subject matter was often what was seen from his bed or the kitchen table in their small, working-class flat in Pittsburgh. This time spent at home helped Andy develop his skills in collage and illustration, and helped him shape his own personal style.
Warhol’s family was very religious and Andy would often visit church with his mother. Later in his life, the desire to worship arouse again but in the notion of celebrity. He seemed to shed the shackles of traditional religion in search of this new faith, celebrity as the new god. Andy himself then became an icon of popular culture, promoting the freedom to be one’s own individual. Andy seemed to add colour to people’s lives, and reflect various strange and fascinating aspects of our culture back to us.
In this Shanghai exhibition 15 Minutes Eternal Andy Warhol, as well as being able to view many of Warhol’s iconic celebrity prints, there are also lesser-known works that are fascinating both in subject matter and construction. Most Wanted Men no.12 Frank B, 1964, silk-screen on linen, and Hospital, 1963, silk-screen ink and pencil on linen (which captures an image of a baby being born) are both intriguing and uncomfortable.
Moving further through the exhibition, the heavy outlining that he uses in the Endangered Species Series 1983, seems to artfully re-iterate the fact that these animals might soon only be a hollow fragment of what they are now… and then disappear without a trace completely.
The colour combinations in many of his works are, as we know, fantastic: hot pink with grass green, turquoise, dusky pink and deep yellow, sage green with deep yellow, dusky pink and scarlet red, hot pink with bright yellow, deep yellow with mauve, pink and green, a dusky violet base with orange, yellow, gold, turquoise and black. Warhol’s Factory must have at times felt more like a candy shop of colour!
The two boxes of materials from Andy’s Time Capsules is a fascinating look into his personal life and that of the time, and this was easily my favourite part of the show. In the year of 1979 there was:
- A letter from the Ambassador of the Imperial Embassy of Iran dated January 26th.
- An original marked manuscript by Truman Capote (who wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
- Potpourri bottles.
- Clinique Continuous Coverage make-up boxes.
- An invitation to The second annual A. Philip Randolph Award Dinner honoring Elizabeth Taylor Warner, to be held on Wednesday February 7th, 1979 at The Plaza Grand Ball Room, as well as, the after-party invitation at Studio 54.
- Studio 54’s St. Valentines Day party invite, which included a 30cm long cupid’s arrow.
- A special Christmas poster of The Beatles and Linda McCartney dressed-up in Father Christmas robes.
- A media release of the Debutants & Delinquents Ball in San Francisco “Societies first punk rock debutant ball, an exuberant evening honoring San Fran's own violent vixens, alien amazons and perverse punkettes. Providing brain-spraining sounds will be three female dominated bands!”
It appears that his life was entertaining and evocative, and that there was plenty of distraction from the more humdrum aspects of everyday life!
The last time his presence was felt in China was 1982 when Andy and a small entourage were thrown a surprise trip to the Mainland by Hong Kong’s Alfred Siu. Siu was a young industrialist who had asked Andy out to Hong Kong to design portraits of Prince Charles and Lady Di for his huge new Disco. A trip to the mainland wasn’t on the agenda, it was really just meant to be a ‘disco trip to Hong Kong.’ Andy stood-out in the crowd in Beijing, not because he was the man who a decade earlier painted the Mao Portraits, but because he looked so unusual against a country that was only just emerging from total isolation from the rest of the world.
When in 1972 Andy stripped the iconic Mao Zedong portrait of its propaganda context, he made Mao a rather friendly face in the eyes of Americans (whether intentional or not). On Chairmen Mao, Warhol said: “I love his book. I read it all the time. I like the simple thoughts.” He found too the simplicity of the mandatory blue suits rather chic. “I like this better than our culture. It’s simpler,” he says. “I love all the blue clothes. Everyone wearing blue. I like to wear the same thing every day. If I were a dress designer I’d design one dress over and over.”
About the great wall Warhol said: “I went to China. I didn’t want to go, and I went to see the Great Wall. You know, you read about it for years. And actually it was really great. It was really, really, really great… It doesn’t look like a wall; it looks like a rollercoaster without the roller.” – Andy Warhol.
China is currently a fast moving ride, and for a man who was into the business of art, I’m sure he would have appreciated China’s fast growing art market today.
In February 1987 Andy Warhol died from complications that arose after a routine gallbladder surgery. Later that same year, in accordance with Warhol's will, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts began. The Foundation serves as the official Estate of Andy Warhol, but also has a mission "to foster innovative artistic expression and the creative process" and is "focused primarily on supporting work of a challenging and often experimental nature.” I love that. Although I found hisOxidation Paintings from 1978, (acrylic and urine on linen), a little shocking, it’s this experimental nature in his creative process that I find so alluring. Andy Warhol is a true pop culture icon worthy of admiration and respect. Not just because of the scale of what he produced, but also because of the popularity and longevity of his fame. His experimental nature across a range of media propelled him forward and made him the king of pop art, appreciated everywhere, including China.
Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal is on show until the 28th July 2013 at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai.
The exhibition is the largest retrospective of Warhol’s artwork to travel to Asia, spanning his career from the 1940s to 1980s. The exhibition includes over 300 paintings, photographs, screen prints, drawings, 3-D installations and sculptures including iconic works such as Jackie, Marilyn Monroe, Mao, Campbell's Soup, Silver Liz, The Last Supper, and Self-Portrait. 15 Minutes Eternal was organised by The Andy Warhol Museum, One of the Four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and will visit five cities across Asia from 2012 to 2014. Read more at The Andy Warhol Museum website.
Or find more on Warhol on Artsy @ https://www.artsy.net/artist/andy-warhol
Shanghai’s DAFF brings a SURGE of creative power to the waterfront.
Shanghai’s creative scene is continuing to sweeten-up thanks to creative companies like TICT, ‘The Ice Cream Truck,’ and SURGE Art. When these two companies collaborate for events such as DAFF, Shanghai’s biannual Design Art & Fashion Fair, there is much to satisfy anyone’s personal flavour.
SURGE Art and TICT officially teamed up for the first time at the September 2012 DAFF, with SURGE Art sponsoring the ‘Live Art’ portion of the fair, an event that this year I had the thrill of painting in. It’s a crowd-drawer, two hours to complete a 1 by 2-meter board; it felt like it could have been touted as the half marathon of painting. For typically introverted artists it’s a big step outside of ones comfort zone, but art is about risk-taking, and I’m aligned to SURGE’s core principles that art should be accessible, fun and something for everyone to enjoy. So I took on the fear of painting publically, did it anyway, and loved it!
As an artist, I wanted to know more about SURGE Art, who via sponsoring events like the Live Art at DAFF, are bringing artists out of their studios, and since 2006 have been making art more accessible to the public. SURGE Art holds annual art fairs in Beijing, and since 2012, Shanghai. I interviewed Tom Pattinson, Founder and Director of SURGE Art, to find out how he’s helping emerging artists and lovers of art alike.
erwilson: What does the name SURGE mean?
Tom Pattinson: It represents the Surge in quality artists emerging out of China and the Surge as artists grow from being emerging to becoming established artists. It represents well the excitement, movement and progression that our artists and the art market in China is currently going through.
erwilson: What is SURGE’s goal and roll within the Shanghai creative community?
Tom Pattinson: SURGE Art is China's leading platform for showcasing emerging artists. We work with thousands of the country's best young talent, giving them the opportunity to show and sell their work, be seen by art professionals and to experiment in an exciting environment. We also want to enable the wider public to learn about contemporary art and discover new talent. Art shouldn't be a luxury product limited to the wealthiest. Art is a window into a time and place - it represents a society and a feeling, and everyone is part of that. Giving these artists the opportunity to express themselves and show their work, and the wider general public the chance to be part of that - through learning and viewing the work or by actually buying some work - we aim to make art something for everyone, not just the elite.
erwilson: In Beijing, SURGE Art seems to have artists who have grown beyond the event who still enjoy showing at your fair. Is there a sense of camaraderie amongst the group of artists? And do you plan on fostering the same in Shanghai?
Tom Pattinson: We had over 14,000 applications for SURGE Art Beijing in 2013 and we try to ensure as many art works can be shown as possible and as many artists can be given an opportunity to showcase their works. Many of the artists we have worked with have grown up with us over the 8 years we have held shows, and gone from being graduates to well established artists selling for tens of thousands of dollars. Many artists used SURGE Art as their first platform and have grown from there so we are proud to have had this chance to enable them to succeed. As well as our main events we work with galleries, private clients, public spaces and other institutions to help promote our artists. We have sent some of our artists to Hong Kong, America and Germany to take part in shows and we have put 6-meter sculptures in some of Beijing's largest public spaces. So outside of our main fairs we work very closely with artists throughout the year.
We hold regular fun events, parties, dinners and BBQs with our artists to ensure they know each other as well as allowing us to get to know them better. Many of these artists have worked with us for years and we have a strong bond with them. I go to art communities and villages at least weekly and spend time seeing artists I know well and discovering new artists. Our curatorial director travels around the country from Chengdu to Hangzhou, Macau to Shenyang visiting art schools and learning more about new talent.
As we increase our presence in Shanghai we also want to join that real community spirit amongst artists and galleries which I have seen already exists well in Shanghai, and really help build further on that. There are some great people and places in Shanghai so we are looking forward to having more fun events and parties with the artists and public there very soon.
erwilson: What would you say your audience is looking for in a piece? What sells?
Tom Pattinson: Bright, fun, original and exciting work sells. It doesn't matter what medium it is, whether it is painting or sculpture, photography or print, it is more about whether the work is interesting and makes people think. Art work should make the viewer feel an emotion - whether that is a positive or negative one - it should make people think and feel something. That is the key for me.
The Ice Cream Truck creative agency has grown from throwing giant warehouse parties to groundbreaking lifestyle events such as DAFF. DAFF has become the biggest branded event that TICT does, with over 8,000 people attending recently, down at Wharf 1846 in Shanghai. It is a biannual event with both fairs being similar in size. David Lin, Creative Director of DAFF and Founder of TICT, gives us the scoop.
erwilson: TICT creative agency was launched five years ago and DAFF has just had its fourth fair, how has the experience been?
David Lin: Since the company was founded in 2009, the experience has been unreal. It's definitely been frustrating at times, but we believe in what we do here, and to see people enjoying our events is really amazing and gratifying.
erwilson: What kind of an audience does DAFF attract?
David Lin: The beautiful thing about DAFF is although it is geared towards the 18-45 year old, young creative & professionals demographic, we really do get all types of people coming to the event. DAFF is a great excuse to just get outside, enjoy the weather, go for a bike ride, eat and drink, hang out with friends, and get inspired by cool new things happening in the city. We get a lot of industry experts coming to check out current trends as well as meet the designers, distributors, buyers, etc. involved. It's also really great to see families come through and get their kids involved with the painting and art workshops, dance to the music, and have a good time. We feel it's very important for children to have this type of exposure at a young age.
erwilson: What are the goals for DAFF in the coming future?
David Lin: In the future, we definitely plan to expand the presence of DAFF. We would love to see DAFF go in a similar direction as other events such as Bread & Butter (Berlin), Art Basel (internationally), Winter Music Conference (Miami), SXSW (Austin), etc., where the whole city becomes a platform for a certain cause. It should serve as a way for artists, designers, brands, and companies in many industries to come together, get inspired, collaborate, and build a better city in which we live.
As an artist here in Shanghai, I’m pretty excited about the direction that these two creative companies want to take the Shanghai Art scene in the future.
Summer is here, SURGE Art’s fair will be on around September, TICT have events happening all the time; so dive-in, choose your current creative flavour, and as they say at TICT, “Lick it up”!
Shanghai's Power Station of Art
I love living in Shanghai, it’s culturally, creatively and intellectually stimulating, and full of surprises. The soaring 165-meter-high landmark thermometer that you check the temperature on from the Nanpu Bridge, turns out to be the chimney of the once Nashi Power Plant and the now brand new contemporary art gallery, Shanghai’sPower Station of Art which opened in October 2012. Since 1897 this chimney has borne (and still bears) witness to the ups and downs of modern industry in China. Now, being China’s first state run contemporary art museum, the space is much like that of Shanghai: vast, intriguing, and all encompassing. The gallery has been created to enrich and expand the cultural horizons of the public, and to be a vibrant and innovative open learning center for contemporary art. Inside the lines are blurred between public space and that of the installations - you feel as if you are walking through a garden of cutting edge art.
Entering the space, one is immediately confronted with an enormous iron stupa, theThousand Hands of Kuanyin, by one of China’s most important representative artists Huang Yong Ping. 1000 objects, held in each of Kuanyin’s hands, extend to you taxidermy monkeys, birds and dried-out turtles, amongst a cross-section of other ready-mades. Its size is almost overpowering as it generates a creative buzz upon arrival.
Directly to the left of the iron stupa, the Chinese ability to pull together towards one common goal and mass produce is on display in the form(s) of Rebekkah bySimon Fujiwara. Rather than being “punished” apparently, the artist gaveRebekkah a two-week journey of a lifetime to China. After being taken to see theTerracotta Warriors, she was then taken to a factory where casts were made of her body. Her figure was replicated into 100 pieces over the course of the 100 days of the recent Shanghai Biennale. Rebekkah has now become another ‘made in China’ product.
The Power Station is exploding with so much great installation art it’s quite mind-blowing. Many international artists are still on display thanks to the 9th Shanghai Biennale, which finished on the 31st of March. Paris’ Centre Pompidou brought Shanghai Electric Fields Surrealism and Beyond, a collection of French masterpieces. This is the first time this Parisian world-leading art museum has joined forces with a public art museum in China. It cost me 20 yuan (that’s about $3.20) to see some fantastic avant-garde art from the 20th century. The exhibition took its name from the venue, and the first work of literary Surrealism, The Magnetic Fields. The Power Station of Art is a perfect fit, as the Surrealists constantly used the electric arc and short-circuit as metaphors to illustrate their aesthetics of bringing together ideas or images that reason set apart. The exhibition is divided into six chapters: Collage, Eros, Automatism, Night, Objects and Words and Images. For each chapter there was at least one video installation, a painting, a piece of sculpture, a photographic work, an architectural model as well as a manuscript. For me, the most impressive early Surrealist art work there were small Max Ernst etchings from 1929, which depicted flying saucers, Tsunami’s and the general fall of mankind. For impressive contemporary Surrealist art works, some ink on paper works by Roland Flexner, produced in 2007, were stunning. These airy night scenes lift you up, throw you around and fly you through a labyrinth of darkness.
The main gallery is free. So if you are in Shanghai, check the temperature, then charge yourself toward the Power Station of Art for a reviving experience. You literally can’t miss it.