5 Institutions to Visit During Shanghai Art Week, Where Museum Shows of Western Contemporary Art Reflect Regional Demand

The region's zest for Western contemporary art has spread to institutions despite ongoing travel restrictions.

Tourists admire the skyline view of Lujiazui area at the Bund in Shanghai, east China, on January 6, 2020.(Photo by Wang Xiang/Xinhua via Getty)

Shanghai Art Week returns this year with yet another edition focused a domestic audience rather than those coming from abroad due to stringent Covid-19 travel restrictions. But this does not mean that the art on show is primarily domestic.

While foreigners may still have trouble with setting foot in China, (some) art does not. Between the works on offer at gallery booths at the two art fairs opening this week—West Bund Art & Design and Art021—and the auction houses’ sale previews, art aficionados stuck in the country will be treated to a veritable buffet of art from abroad. Western artists, who have been selling well at auctions in Asia, are also the stars of some of the biggest institutional shows in Shanghai this month. Read on for the highlights.


Yuz Museum, Shanghai

Herman Bas, “Choose Your Own Adventure
October 28, 2021–January 9, 2022

Shara Hughes, “The Bridge
November 6, 2021–January 9, 2022

Hernan Bas <i>The Young Man & the Sea</i> (2020). Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Private collection, Korea

Hernan Bas, The Young Man & the Sea (2020). Private collection, Korea. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

The Shanghai museum founded by Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur and collector Budi Tek has given the stage to two Americans who are making their solo debuts in mainland China. “Choose Your Own Adventure” is a survey of the career of Miami-born artist Herman Bas over the past two decades, featuring more than 20 paintings and early video installations. Among the highlights are his detailed and alluring figurative paintings. “The Bridge,” meanwhile, is a solo presentation by the Brooklyn-based painter Shara Hughes, with examples of her most recent enigmatic landscapes created during the pandemic featuring in the museum’s Yuz Project Space.


Long Museum West Bund

George Condo, “The Picture Gallery
September 26–November 28, 2021

Pat Steir
October 23, 2021–January 3, 2022

<i>Rainbow Waterfall</i> (2021) © Pat Steir, provided by Lévy Gorvy.

Pat Steir, Rainbow Waterfall (2021). © Pat Steir. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy.

Two more solo exhibitions of Western artists can be found at the West Bund branch of Long Museum, founded by mega-collector couple Liu Yiqian and his wife, Wang Wei. Billed as the largest solo exhibition of George Condo to date, “The Picture Gallery,” curated by the New Museum’s Massimiliano Gioni, is a sizable retrospective of the American artist. The exhibition showcases nearly 200 paintings, sculptures, and drawings that reflect Condo’s trajectory from the late 1970s to present. Since the artist introduced in Hong Kong in a selling exhibition at Sotheby’s in 2018, where he was presented side by side with works by Pablo Picasso, Condo has been a cause célèbre in the Asia market.

The eponymous solo presentation of the American artist Pat Steir, on the other hand, is marketed as the artist’s “love letter to China.” The show is the first in the country to take a deep dive into the artist’s ink-inspired practice over the past four decades and foregrounds her iconic “Waterfall” series paintings, from those that she began creating in the late 1980s to the new, large-scale painting Rainbow Waterfall (2021).

Longlati Foundation

Derrick Adams, Amoako Boafo, and Vaughn Spann, “Behind This Wall

Tala Madani, “It Was as if the Shadows Were Lit Up”
November 9, 2021–February 28, 2022

Cofounded by Singapore investor David Su and Chinese artist Chen Zihao, the Hong Kong-registered Longlati Foundation has chosen a the triumverate of Derrick Adams, Amoako Boafo, and Vaughn Spann—whose works have been popular at auctions in Asia in recent years—to inaugurate its new Shanghai space, which pledges to support young artists. The portraits featured in this group show, drawn from the foundation’s collection, seek to explore and redefine the idea of Blackness. Concurrently, the foundation is presenting the “Corner Projections” painting series by Tehran-born, Los Angeles-based Tala Madani.

Prada Rong Zhai

Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, “A Moon Wrapped in Brown Paper
November 11, 2021–January 9, 2022

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Dark Side of the Moon (2017). Courtesy of the artists and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Dark Side of the Moon (2017). Courtesy of the artists and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

A historic, circa-1918 residence restored with precision by Prada is the jewel-box setting for a show by the Swedish artist duo Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg. Staged with the support of Fondazione Prada and curated by Yang Beichen, the exhibition features a range of sculptures and videos made between 2000 and 2019 that take visitors on a journey through an imaginative universe conjured by dark fairy tales. The monstrous characters may seem like they have traveled from a different realm, but, says Yang, the stories have profound connections with the complexity of our contemporary world.

Shanghai Fosun Foundation 

Alex Israel, “Freeway
November 10, 2021–February 15, 2022

A self-portait by Alex Israel in the collection of Derek and Chrsten Wilson. Photo by Eileen Kinsella

The American artist Alex Israel’s first museum-scale exhibition in China has taken two full years to realize and delivers a vast body of work in a range of media, from paintings and moving images to sculptures, installations, and interviews. Highlights include his “Self-Portrait” and “Sky Backdrop” series. “I hope to invite the Chinese audience into my head,” the artist said in a video about the exhibition. “I hope the exhibition makes you ask questions, makes you feel, think and reflect on our culture.” Following the presentation in Shanghai, the exhibition will travel to Chengdu, where the Fosun Foundation will open a new space next spring.

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