Saturday, June 22, 2013

M50: Art in Shanghers

There are times when I am not a very good art teacher.  I lived in Shanghai for two years and only made it to M50 once, in spite of the fact that one of the local stream art teachers, Cécile Girard, exhibited work there at least once in those two years.  I could make excuses, but it just boils down to the fact that I'm lazy.  However, I did make it there one Saturday afternoon before I left, and I always meant to blog about it...since I mentioned it in my final Tatym blog, I suppose I'll make this my first ghost blog.

(Why am I ghost posting?  Well, I guess my blog has sort of become like a child to me.  I can't imagine leaving it alone for the three weeks I'll be gone, or even for the one when I'll be unable to access it on the other side of the Great Wall.  So I'm writing these flashbacks from Mongolia, to babysit for me while I'm gone.  I hope you enjoy them).
M50 is a collection of art galleries on Moganshan Lu, not far from the Shanghai Railway station.  It's not quite big enough to call a gallery district (not like the Crossroads area in my hometown, Kansas City), and because I was not the most proactive art teacher during those two years, I can't tell you if they have one big opening night during a month, or what.
Much of the art that I saw that afternoon was not particularly original.  Which is not to say it wasn't good, but I had seen the likes of it before, such as the photographs of different ethnic minorities and street scenes that you'll see ad nauseum in Tianzifang or even the Hongqiao pearl market.  This artist, whose name I regretfully didn't write down, was one of my favorite exceptions.  His depictions of China under apocalyptic skies in dull, polluted colors matched my two-years experience (I was particularly vitriolic in the last few months of my contract...you should watch this video for a more balanced perspective).
If I'm remembering correctly, the buildings of M50 used to be factories.  As you wander from building to building there are sculptures to see.  The day I went I ran into a student whose mom is an artist - it's fairly kid-friendly.  This was one of my more favorite sculptures - it reminded me of my high school lit teacher, Drim, who made us read the existentialist short story "Rhinoceros," by Eugene Ionesco.
However, I mentioned M50 last weekend because of the street art there.  If you walk north along Moganshan Lu from the main entrance, you will see the best collection of murals in the city.
As I was refreshing my memory on a few points to write about, I read that some of these walls were supposed to be demolished by the end of last year.  I didn't revisit M50 while I was in Shanghers in April, so I don't know if that happened or not.  It is not particularly surprising to me.  Shanghai is one of those cities where anything that is not neat and clean is rapidly being mowed down and done away with, and street art has always been a little bit anti-establishment.  The fact that it exists at all in a country so very pro-establishment is the real surprise.

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