Shanghai Art Week Returns With a Slew of Must-See Shows From Ugo Rondinone to Zeng Fhanzi
The art world takes over the Chinese metropolis for a week of stellar exhibitions. Here is our guide to required viewing.
Emerging from a three-year shadow cast by the pandemic and its stringent measures, Shanghai’s illustrious art scene has made a resounding comeback. The city is abuzz once more, celebrating the return of Shanghai Art Week, a decade-long tradition anchored by the homegrown ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair and West Bund Art & Design (both from November 9 to 12). Year by year, the local cultural tapestry has grown richer, with an ever-expanding array of museums and institutions enhancing the experience for art lovers.
Strategically peppered throughout the city, these institutions are poised to unveil some of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year. The diverse lineup is impressive, featuring the genius of Western maestros alongside emerging artists who are capturing the attention of the market. So, if you’re in Shanghai this week, please gear up with a stream of caffeine and your most comfortable sneakers.
Power Station of Art
November 9, 2023 – March 31, 2024
Anton Vidokle, the artist and founder of curatorial platform e-flux, is taking the helm as Chief Curator of the event’s 14th edition. This Biennial embraces an imaginative theme “Cosmo Cinema,” a nod to Shanghai’s pioneering role in cinema since 1897 (two years after the medium’s invention) and this city’s early founding of Sheshan Observatory. Vidokle envisions the architecture of the Power Station of Art as a “spaceship,” promising visitors a spacetime in which to reflect on the operations of the universe and our place within it. The curatorial team is rounded out with Zairong Xiang, Hallie Ayres, and Lukas Brasiskis.
West Bund Museum
November 9, 2023 – February 25, 2024
The high-profile five-year Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project is set to unveil its latest marquee exhibition “Raoul Dufy: the Melody of Happiness.” The largest Dufy retrospective ever assembled presents 140 artworks of this 20th-century “master of happiness” in 12 sections, offering an unprecedented exploration of his vibrant legacy. As one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century, Dufy’s achievements extend beyond painting to pivotal roles in the monumental fashion shifts of the 1920s and mastery in the decorative arts (including illustrations, ceramics, tapestries, and theatrical designs.) A spotlight of the exhibition is Electricity Fairy (1937), a massive work consisting of 250 panels of explosive color. This significant piece is on loan from the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris and incapsulates Dufy’s unique blend of innovation and joy.
Concurrent at the museum is Chinese artist Cui Jie’s (1983) solo exhibition “Species as Gifts.”
July 8, 2023 – January 28, 2024
“Friends in the Arts” at Tank Shanghai is a must-see for insights into China’s new wave of art collectors. The exhibit showcases contemporary works assembled by 56 up-and-coming collectors over the last three years, selected for their resonance with today’s cultural and artistic currents. Reflecting on the collector’s exhibition from 2018, Tank Shanghai now spotlights this fresh group of collectors, offering a snapshot of Chinese collecting trends. Due to its scale, the exhibition is split into two phases, with the second phase unfolding on November 8th.
Also on view at Tank Shanghai are three solo shows of Western artists: “Thomas Houseago: LOVERS,” “Kat Lyons: CYCLES” and “Jeanette Mundt: A Reality.”
Prada Rong Zhai
November 3, 2023 – January 21, 2024
This fall, with the support of Fondazione Prada, “Paraventi:屏” is an enchanting exhibition spanning three global cities. Curator Nicholas Cullinan orchestrates this group show, which aligns with the expansive “Paraventi: Folding Screens from the 17th to 21st Centuries” at Fondazione Prada, Milan. In Shanghai, the exhibition unfolds within a beautifully restored historic dwelling at the city’s core. It features two precious Chinese folding screens from the 17th and 18th centuries—one a petite desk screen and the other a grand 12-panel imperial piece. From there, the exhibition expands into a series of rooms showcasing five contemporary commissions by artists like Tony Cokes, John Stezaker, Shuang Li, Wu Tsang, and Cao Fei, intertwining history with modernity.
This project extends its reach with a parallel exhibition at Prada Aoyama Tokyo, creating a dialogue between the historic and the contemporary across Asia.
Museum of Art Pudong
September 27, 2023 – March 8, 2024
The state-established Museum of Art Pudong, designed by architect Jean Nouvel, is presenting its inaugural oil painting exhibition dedicated to contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi. This retrospective encompasses 60 of Zeng’s pivotal works that span across a prolific 35-year career, including pieces from his renowned “Mask” series. Adding a unique touch, Zeng’s Abstract Landscape – Red was painted on-site just ten days before the exhibition was unveiled, with the museum preserving remnants of his creative process for visitors to witness.
Other exhibitions aligned with Shanghai Art Week on view at the museum are “The Greats of Six Centuries: Masters from the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza,” “Liu Heung Shing Lens · Era · People,” and “Xu Bing: Gravitational Arena.”
October 21, 2023 – January 15, 2024
Strolling by Suzhou Creek, you’ll witness a blend of Shanghai’s past and present. Fotografiska launched Asia’s first video art center here on October 21st. Housed in a renovated 20th-century warehouse, Fotografiska Shanghai brings together Eastern and Western visions with artists: Feng Li, Edward Burtynsky, Fan Xi, and Samson Young. Their works redefine traditional views and blend documentary style with visual pleasure. Open until 11 p.m. daily, it offers a unique nightlife experience for art lovers.
November 8, 2023 – March 3, 2024
“Watering the Desert | Contemporary Art from Qatar” marks a landmark exhibition at Yuz Museum Shanghai, the first major showcase of Qatari and Qatar-resident artists in China. This pioneering event is curated by Issa Al Shirawi and Maryam Hassan Al Thani of Qatar Museums and is a collaborative effort with Yuz Museum. It will feature 37 diverse talents spanning artists, designers, and filmmakers from the vibrant Qatari art scene. The exhibition focuses on the country’s unique cultural, social, historical, and urban contexts, providing an artistic perspective on the country’s social and environmental changes over the past 30 years to the present.
Also on view is “Painters & Portraits”, the solo exhibition of the artist Grace Weaver, from October 28, 2023 to February 25, 2024, at the Yuz Project Space of Art.
November 8, 2023 – January 14, 2024
Long Museum, a frequent headline-maker, continues to unveil new exhibitions this season. Currently, it offers five distinct shows, among which is the notable large-scale retrospective “Zhang Enli: Expression,” curated by the museum’s founder and director, Wang Wei. This comprehensive exhibition traces the evolution of Zhang Enli’s artistry, beginning with the “lines” that have been a consistent theme throughout his career and leading up to his latest blue abstract creations of 2023. Showcasing nearly 100 pieces, the retrospective spans Zhang Enli’s early portraits from the 1990s, his mid-career focus on everyday objects, to his recent abstract works, providing a three-decade journey through the artist’s progression since his early aspirations to be a painter.
Additionally, Wang Wei has organized “The Tenth Anniversary of Long Museum: Portraits,” the fourth in a series celebrating the museum’s decade of influence. This exhibition delves into the collection’s diverse range of portraiture. The season is also enriched by solo exhibitions “Huang Yuxing: Under the Vault of Heaven” and “Gao Ludi: Overwrite” which offer a glimpse into the dynamic work of younger artists.
Rockbund Art Museum
November 8, 2023 – February 25, 2024
Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao’s inaugural solo exhibition in China, “These Petrified Paths,” at the Rockbund Art Museum, delves into the intersections of knowledge, memory, and cultural identity. Challenging the dominant narrative through her multi-medium artistry—ranging from film to installations with reclaimed objects—Rao’s work exposes hidden channels of knowledge transfer and cultural continuity. Her exhibition spreads across four thematic spaces and features a commanding three-dimensional energy pylon, symbolizing a “tree of knowledge.”
This museum also co-presented with TRLab to host “Memories of Tomorrow,” a captivating digital installation by the artist Six N. Five, who orchestrates an immersive voyage through time and memory, transforming the historic cinema with his distinctive blend of digital artistry.
November 4, 2023 – February 18, 2024
The landmark exhibition “Matisse by Matisse” has made its way from Beijing to Shanghai’s UCCA Edge, following a celebrated collaboration with Musée départemental Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis. This show stands as the most extensive and insightful exploration of Henri Matisse’s life and oeuvre ever presented on the Chinese mainland. With over 280 pieces, the exhibition not only showcases Matisse’s art but also includes handicrafts and assorted objects from his personal collection, all sourced from the French museum’s treasures. During its premiere at UCCA Beijing, the exhibition drew an audience of over 200,000, cementing its status as one of Beijing’s most extraordinary cultural phenomena in 2023. Visitors were captivated by the comprehensive retrospective, which traced the development of Matisse’s artistic philosophy and style throughout his prolific career.
November 8, 2023 – January 1, 2024
Titled “Burn to Shine,” the Fosun Foundation will showcase the solo exhibition of Ugo Rondinone. Drawing inspiration from the 1994 poem by his late partner, the American poet and artist John Giorno, the exhibition’s name is a profound Buddhist maxim that reflects on life’s transience and the perpetual cycle of death and rebirth. The theme resonates with motifs of mortality and renewal found in mythologies from the ancient Greek to Chinese traditions, prompting a deeper reflection on existence and the natural world. At the heart of the exhibition is Rondinone’s video installation “Burn to Shine,” which transforms the second-floor expanse of the institution into a contemplative space.
“Wilhelm Sasnal：Under the Asphalt”
November 8, 2023 – January 10, 2024
This major solo show also marks the Polish artist Wilhelm Sasnal’s second exhibition in China and will feature thirty recent paintings, spanning two exhibition halls. Centered on the evocative motif of “asphalt,” inspired by Sasnal’s experiences in Greece, the paintings explore layers of history and perception, inviting viewers to weave their own narratives through the interplay of shadow and color. The exhibition challenges the audience to ponder the role of art in representing reality and the artist’s struggle for genuine expression in the relentless flow of history.
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