Shanghai may be better known for its innovative architecture and towering skyscrapers, but in recent years the city has become increasingly renowned for its flourishing contemporary arts scene. While many of Shanghai’s biggest galleries lie alongside the Bund, one of the city’s most exciting new arts addresses is the edgy district of Moganshan Lu, where galleries and studios lie behind each graffiti-clad façade.
Situated on the banks of the Suzhou Creek, Moganshan Lu first gained its distinction as a creative hub through the urban artworks that decorated the wall along the length of the street, causing a divide between Moganshan Lu and the city. Since those early days, despite being under the continuous threat of demolition, the street’s art scene has gone from strength to strength.
Moganshan Lu’s influx of galleries and studios began with the establishment of the Shanghai M50 Art Community. It was in 2000 that the artist Xue Song moved into a former textile mill, tempted by the warehouse’s cheap rent. Other contemporary artists soon followed, after which the city’s major galleries, such as Shanghai Art Gallery and East Link Gallery, set up outposts there, too. Today, this art collective – known as M50 – comprises over 100 art galleries, including the popular Vanguard Gallery and ShanghART. Arts studios range from architects to graphic design firms, with hip cafes and teahouses to visit as well.
At M50, people can wander freely between the boutique gallery spaces and working studios, while discovering the work of Shanghai’s established and emerging contemporary artists, from photographers and urban artists to painters and sculptors. And in addition to providing a space for visiting arts enthusiasts, the M50 art community brings Shanghai’s artists together, encouraging creative exchange while enabling them to showcase their work.
Moganshan Lu has grown so much in recent years, it’s now known as Shanghai’s art quarter, drawing in visitors from across the world. And even after a section of the famous graffiti-clad wall was demolished, the urban art here has remained one of the greatest draws. In fact, the street art on display continuously evolves as Shanghai’s urban artists continue to express their creativity in-line with the social issues of the day.
Arts and craft shops can also be found amidst the studios and galleries, selling handmade crafts as well as art books and art supplies, in addition to the commercial galleries that sell their own prints. Among the cafés dotted throughout the area, it’s M50- based Undefine that’s garnered the most attention, for its part-gallery, part-studio and café space.
Moganshan Lu undoubtedly gives an unrivalled insight into Shanghai’s burgeoning contemporary art scene and the artists that define it. Ultimately, the Moganshan Lu Arts District showcases another side to modern Chinese culture.
Virgin Atlantic operates daily flights to Shanghai, making it easier to explore the city’s art district.
Have you been to Moganshan Lu in Shanghai? What were the highlights for you?