Although China’s contemporary art scene is still vexed by volatile, inflated marketplace, it is beginning to feel less like the Wild Wild East. The crème de la crème of Chinese artists remain in the cultural hub of Beijing, but Shanghai has experienced an exciting growth spurt over the last few years. A slew of world-class galleries in Shanghai are on a mission to find and foster China’s most promising artistic talent. One such prominent purveyor and a big fixture of the art international world is Pearl Lam, who funds an artist-in-residence program that encourages creatives to “push the boundaries of traditional Chinese art and craft techniques and create new works the reflect their experience in China.” Another central force in the Shanghai art scene is M97, which has a focus on fine-art photographers who turn their lenses on China-related issues like urban sprawl. Shanghai Gallery of Art still remains the biggest heavyweight, however, with its stately surroundings at Three on the Bund.
M97 has been Shanghai’s leading contemporary and fine art photography since 2006. The gallery represents established artists as well as supporting the most promising emerging talent. The gallery is situated in the middle of art M50 complex on Moganshan Road on the bank of Suzhou River. M97 is one of the largest galleries of its kind in Asia, with generous space for group or solo exhibitions, like Michael Wolf’s modern cityscapes to historic exhibitions of Chinese photographers like Han Lei.
Pearl Lam is synonymous with the Chinese art scene. The larger-than-life fixture of the fine art world, Lam start exhibiting and promoting Chinese art in Hong Kong in 1993 and has since grown her empire with two more galleries in Shanghai and another in Singapore. Lam’s Fine Art Gallery in Shanghai exhibits Chinese contemporary art within its large ground floor space. The current exhibition features the quietly arresting installation works of emerging Japanese artist Sayaka Ishizuka.
OCAT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT)
OCAT was established in 2005 as a community division of the He Xiangning Art Museum. It touts itself as “China’s only non-profit contemporary art organization affiliated to a National Art Museum.” This creative hub on Suzhou Creek brings together artists from China and around the world to cultivate media art, mostly video, photography, and sound. OCAT’s mission is to promote exchange between China and the rest of the world through not only art exhibitions, but also via public lectures and screenings.
Shanghai Gallery of Art
Shanghai Gallery of Art is a venerable art center housed in a posh piece of real estate at Three on the Bund. It is arguable the most authoritative and influential private gallery cultivating, displaying and dealing in contemporary Chinese art.
SGA shows art world heavyweights in its enormous exhibition space, which has seen solo shows by Hu Xiangcheng, Zhang Yongxu, Anish Kapoor, and Richard Wilson.
Another veteran of the Chinese art scene is ShanghART, which was established nearly 20 years ago with the mission to cultivate local Chinese art. With a special focus on artists living and working in Shanghai, ShanghART has established long term working relationships with the city’s most innovative creative minds, including Zhang Enli and Zhou Tiehai.