Shanghai walks: Taopu's art scene

Explore Shanghai's newest emerging art district

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Starting point Qilianshan Lu station
End point Qilianshan Lu station
Walking time 1 hour 15 minutes
Note To ensure access to all the sites mentioned in this walk go from 9am-5pm Wed-Sun.


Take exit 5 from Qilianshan Lu station and turn left, going north on Qilianshan Lu. Walk two to three minutes and you’ll find the Shanghai Hero pen store (open 9am-5pm daily) on your left at number 127. Hero (英雄) was founded in 1931, though it was originally called Huafu Pen Co before changing its name to Hero in 1966. Hero continues to make decent quality fountain pens, which cost as little as 20RMB and go way, way up to 8,500RMB for the lacquer and 18k gold ‘Macau’ model. 50ml pots of ink are 5RMB.

Q. The white and blue ceramic-look Expo pen (638RMB) features a picture of Haibao and a steel model of the China Pavilion. What other creature is shown on the pen?


Exit the store and turn left, continuing north on Qilianshan Lu. Continue for 50 paces or so and you’ll reach the high white gate of the Hero factory grounds. Pens are still manufactured here, and if the guards let you in you can see the machinists at work (try the first floor of Building 11). With cheap rents and decent metro access, in recent years Taopu has become a base for a number of artists, and several – Jin Shan, Maya Kramer, Girolamo Marri, Chen Hangfeng and Ni Youyu – have set up studios in empty rooms of the factory.

Q. At the gates you’ll find a rare mini poster for Girolamo Marri’s seminal album You Broke My Art. What year was the album released?


Continue north on Qilianshan Lu, cross Yongdeng Lu, and pass between two tall chimney stacks, a red and white striped one on your right, and the brick chimney of the Shanghai Dye Chemical Company Factory Number 8 on your left. If you were to turn left at Wuwei Lu and walk for 200 metres you’d reach the Huahuan Hotel Goods City, where you can pick up almost anything you’d find in a hotel: trolleys, pots, pans, cutlery, crockery, glasses, chef’s whites and maid outfits.

Instead, find the grandiose apartment complex with a Caesar statue out front, and head to the corner of the intersection that he’s pointing to. From there, facing Caesar, make a hard right. Thirty metres down the quiet, dead end street, you’ll find the TOP Creative Park. There’s lots to see here, so stop first at Dolce Vita Café (open 10am-6.30pm daily), for a decent coffee (22-35RMB), lunch (business sets are under 30RMB), or a spoonable peanut ice ‘smoothie’ (30RMB). The café is decorated with local artists’ works.

Q. Opposite Dolce Vita’s Ding Yi cross drawing, there’s a print of a giant crab looming over the Forbidden City. What colour are its claws?


The TOP Creative Park is home to art galleries, artists’ studios (including those of MadeIn, Zhang Ding,Yang Fudong and Tang Maohong) and a growing number of design, photography and fashion companies. SHiNE Art Space (Building 2) has some beautiful, snowy surrealist paintings by Feng Hanping, but your next treasure hunt target is next door, on the second floor of massive Building 5. Here you’ll find the Bachmann Model Train store (open 9am-5.30pm Wed-Sun), which moved to Taopu from Wuding Lu in Jingan and now has an even more glorious display scene, including skinny dippers.

Q. What colour are the display’s police cars?


There are some great art shows on at the TOP Creative Park. As always, the big red warehouse of ShanghART’s Taopu space (open 10am-6pm Tue-Sun) also has a wealth of excellent Shanghai art, including Yang Zhenzhong’s slouching star, MadeIn Company’s rainbow coloured tropical rainforest, Zhang Ding’s olive green fridges full of adipose tissue, and a historic fax exhibition. Just behind ShanghART’s exhibition space you can find a small store, which sells art catalogues, Zhao Bandi’s panda people T-shirts (50RMB) and products from Xu Zhen’s Supermarket piece.

Q. What’s unusual about the toothpaste and shampoo on sale at the store?

Getting home

Exit the TOP Creative Park and turn right. When you reach Qilianshan Lu, turn left (south) and you’ll reach Qilianshan Lu metro station in under 15 minutes.

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