50 Moganshan, Shanghai’s Art District
Less than 10 years old, 50 Moganshan Road, or M50 as it’s often referred to, is nothing if not modern. An old warehouse district from the 1930s, the buildings at 50 Moganshan Rd. once housed factories that made silk and calico. Up until 2000, when Shanghai art legend Xue Song moved his workroom into one of the restored spaces there, 50 Moganshan was essentially dead.
Shanghai’s Art District
Now, looking toward its 10-year anniversary, 50 Moganshan is the hottest art district in Shanghai, rivaled only by Beijing’s 798 as the center of Chinese modern art. More than 130 artists, filmmakers, architects and graphic design firms now inundate the area, and a visit to this Chinese art mecca means checking out some of the most avant-garde paintings and artistic works going on in the Middle Kingdom today.
There is enough art at 50 Moganshan to keep you busy for an entire day. The whole place is a maze of workshops, galleries and studios in a series of numbered buildings and art centers along the Suzhou Creek. Some of the galleries are run by foreign expats, such as the celebrated ShanghART (Buildings 16 & 18), which is run by Swiss native Lorenz Helbling. It is one of the oldest art spaces in the district.
The pioneer gallery at 50 Moganshan is Eastlink (Building 6), which continues to play a pivotal role in the development of Shanghai’s art scene. Eastlink is run by Australian-Chinese artist Li Liang and, over the years, has housed some of the most controversial exhibitions on the scene.
Building 7 houses both the gallery and studio of elegant photographer Jin Xuanmin, as well as the main offices for BizArt, a non-profit foundation that promotes the work of young artists and supports new media and experimental installations. Art Scene Warehouse in Building 4 has a massive, white gallery space with an ultra modern feel. They present all types of events and exhibitions from both established and emerging artists and, since 2005, they have put on the Dragon Air Emerging Chinese Artist Awards to showcase rising Chinese talents.
There are far too many galleries to name in 50 Moganshan. The best way to discover them all is by exploration. A useful map in the central courtyard of the district notes the names and locations of every gallery and provides a solid jumping off point for delving into the area.
After a day of art-hunting and culture-immersion, head on towards The Cool Docks, your very first stop for a luxuriant taste of Shanghai’s soft, romantic side.
Shopping at Moganshan
Shopping is downplayed at 50 Moganshan, unless you’re intent on buying original pieces from the artists themselves. There are, however, a few shops and clothing stores, mostly owned and run by fresh young Shanghai fashion designers. Most notable are the artful designs of Shirtflag and its sister shop, Hi Panda. Shirtflag takes its inspiration from Chinese culture and history in making “revolutionary” designs that feature some of the more memorable icons from China’s history, including images of weapons, revolutionary slogans and Mao himself. Hi Panda does the same thing with China’s beloved national animal, the panda bear. Both shops produce Shanghai street wear with a focus on youth fashion that embraces jeans, t-shirts and funky accessories.
Another hidden gem at 50 Moganshan is Cinemoda, a quaint little shop tucked away near Aomen Lu. Their brightly colored dresses and sweet, feminine designs make them a favorite with Shanghai’s young female set.
Shanghai’s “new heaven and earth”, hip modern Xintiandi, is a hotspot of entertainment, shopping and nightlife that really lives up to it’s name.
Restaurants and Cafes
A few cafes and teahouses are scattered around M50, although it is neither the quaint outdoor café district of Taikang Lu nor the culinary hotbed of Xintiandi. Really, people come here for the art. That said, if you are hankering for a sit down or just need a nice bite, there are a couple of good options (after all, the artists have to eat, don’t they?).
Bandu Music Café is a great place to grab a cup of coffee and explore the world of Chinese folk music. They have an extensive selection of CDs by local and national artists, and usually host live performances on weekend evenings. Located in M50’s Building 11, during the day Bandu is a quiet and cozy spot.
Another enjoyable option is the ambient Traveled Coffee & Tea, located in Building 1. This chic coffeeshop uses a modern Asian design element, with interesting basket light fixtures and photographs by local artists decorating the dark wooden walls. Pebbled floors, an interior gazebo and a floor-to-ceiling glass wall give the whole place a very airy feel.
50 Moganshan is not an easy place to reach. There is no direct subway service to the area, so you have to rely on buses, taxis or your feet. Use Line 1 to Shanghai Railway Station and take Exit 5. Walk out of the station and down to Tianmu Xi Rd., go right (west), cross the bridge and go right again onto Xisuzhou Rd., which intersects with Moganshan Lu. The whole affair will probably take close to an hour, so a taxi from Shanghai Railway Station might be a better idea. Otherwise, buses 76/105 to Changhua Road or 19/68/112 to Jiangning Road will get you in the near vicinity.
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