There’s a thriving artists’ quarter on the banks of the Suzhou Creek, and the place to see it is No. 50 Monganshan Road, known as Shanghai M50 Art Community. Once an old textile mill, the complex now houses galleries, studios, art spaces, and some cafes and restaurants, and this is where you’ll find the best of Shanghai’s contemporary artists as well as emerging talent.
It’s an exciting place to wander. The mill closed in 1999, and the alleys and buildings clearly reflect their industrial past. In 2000 local contemporary artist Xue Song was attracted by the possibilities of the area, and low rental. He moved in, and soon other artists, such as Ding Yi, Qu Fengguo, Wang Xingwei set up studios here too. Which is very fortunate for the rest of us, otherwise it may have been demolished, and this wonderful area which both nurtures new talent and showcases established artists, may never have existed.
Before long galleries such as the ShanghArt Gallery, Eastlink Gallery and ArtScene rented space here, where they display some of the most exciting modern art from M50, Shanghai and China. The galleries are able to foster the connection between their artists and international buyers, and have successfully launched a number of now-famous local artists. Today graphic designers, architectural workshops and environmental art design companies also rent space, but the real buzz and energy of the place comes from the juxtaposition of well-known artists and aspiring talent. It really is very exciting to wander through the sometimes chaotic area, in and out of working studios and display spaces, both large and small, and to see the work that is being produced here.
There are about 100 artists in residence, and with such a range you can take something home from a few dollars up to megabucks for the work of the internationally famous. The range of media is equally varied, and includes paint of every description, sculpture using a wide variety of materials, photography, textiles and experimental work.
This is a fun place to visit, and offers an interesting contrast from the more traditional aspects of China that visitors often concentrate on. And the best of the work being produced here is absolutely stunning.