Shanghai's best galleries, opera, heritage architecture and more. The best of Shanghai's art scene, local culture and heritage to see in the city
Take in some contemporary Chinese art
The city’s art scene may still suffer in many people’s comparisons to that of Beijing, but we’re really not doing too badly. The opening of the two Long Museums, the Power Station of Art, Rockbund Art Museum and the Yuz Museum in recent years has bolstered the museum side of a Shanghai art scene that already boasted a broad range of top-notch galleries showcasing works from both local and international artists. We’ve even seen some excellent art shows popping up in shopping malls and despite our intrinsic misgivings about such juxtapositions, K11’s Chi Space has proved a welcome addition.
And still Shanghai's main art hub, M50, housed in a former factory space at 50 Moganshan Lu, is home to over 25 art galleries and spaces, including some of the city's best, all surrounded by one of the only public graffiti spaces in Shanghai on Moganshan Lu.
Buy local art pieces
If you’re looking to invest in some original Chinese
art, most of Shanghai’s
smaller galleries will have works starting from a few thousand RMB. More
affordable options are offered by local creative agency NeochaEDGE’s online
shop, which has a great selection of limited-edition giclée prints by local
artists (from 500RMB), while IdleBeats’ silkscreen prints (from 200RMB) range
from old horror movie posters to a ‘Year of the Horse’ print. For the past few
years the Affordable Art Fair China, now rebranded as Surge, pops up every
September, for a chance to see, and purchase, young, upcoming Chinese artists (such as Wang Lang, pictured) at affordable prices.
Attend a Chinese opera
favourite opera form, Shaoxing opera, tends to dominate here, there are regular
performances of Jingju (Peking opera)
and other variants at theatres across town. One of Shanghai’s most famous stages is the Yifu
Theatre, which was built in 1925 and continues to hold around 350 performances
every year. See our gallery of actors getting ready behind the stage, including
make-up, coiff setting and costumes.
And if you’re not sure whether a full-on
performance is for you, a number of theatres offer ‘highlights’ programmes most
months, meaning you can just sample a few of the best bits. For an al fresco
alternative, wander around People’s Park and you’ll likely find groups of
residents singing revolutionary classics and occasionally a little opera too.
Snap some Shanghai Art Deco
it’s taking in some classic Western-influenced cinemas or exploring the work of architect Laszlo Hudec with our guided walk, there are plenty of fine
examples of Art Deco to see in Shanghai – so many in fact that the World
Congress on Art Deco will be held in the city in November 2015.
was one of the city’s leading proponents of Art Deco architecture during the
1930s and many of his structures (such as The Grand Theatre, the Normandie
Apartments and the ‘Green House’) still stand today. You can also find out more
about the man himself at the recently opened Hudec Memorial Hall, though be
warned that while the displays are interesting, the captions are limited.
Explore disappearing old Shanghai with your camera
The triangle of land between Xiaonanmen metro station, the Lujiabang fabric market and the Cool Docks is a fascinating slice of old Shanghai that goes largely overlooked and is shrinking by the day as the cranes and bulldozers move in. While development has already eaten into much of the neighbourhood – in some cases leaving a single, solitary old house marooned in a sea of rubble, or a road sign pointing redundantly at a new concrete wall – there’s still an atmospheric core in which to get enjoyably lost.
Take a walk around Shanghai Film Studios
out of an ancient Chinese temple and onto the tramlines of 1930s Nanking Lu at Shanghai Film
Park (entry 50RMB), which has
featured in films such as Lust, Caution and Kung Fu Hustle, though these days is largely the domain
of young couples shooting their wedding photos. Amateurish stunt shows are
scheduled daily at 10.30am and 1.30pm, but otherwise the sets are a ghost town,
allowing you to wander around the period replicas of Waibaidu Bridge and Hengshan Moller Villa in
Visit Lai Lai Dancehall
One of Shanghai’s
most remarkable soirees, this Hongkou dancehall hosts groups of middle aged men dancing cheek-to-cheek every weekend along with
occasional drag performances.
‘It’s popular because
there are very few dancehalls like this where men from all kinds of backgrounds
can be together,’ one regular visitor told us. ‘Most
of these guys are immigrants from outside Shanghai.
You can find gay bars in every city but a dancehall like this only in Shanghai.’
to be sensitive to the anonymity enjoyed by the men here and it’s best if you
get involved rather than making the dancers feel as if they’re being observed
for someone else’s entertainment, but a trip here is a truly unforgettable