Art walks: Downtown and dirty in the FFC

Pace through the art of Shanghai's Former French Concession

If street art, teenage angst and a general aura of sticking it to the man are your jam, a stroll through the FFC is for you. Growing a reputation as the rebellious younger brother of the city’s art scene, downtown Shanghai has a lot to offer. And it’s just getting started.

M97 Gallery

M97 moved last year from the space it occupied for 12 years on Moganshan Lu to a new space set in a converted 1940s factory against the backdrop of the city’s urban rooftops. The free photography gallery offers varied and unique works and, thanks to an open-roof terrace, makes for a blissful summer hangout.

M97 is at 363 Changping Lu, near Shaanxi Bei Lu, Jingan district.

Refresh and refuel

Follow the route south down Jiaozhou Lu towards Jingan Temple, and eventually onto Anfu Lu. This is the longest part of the walking tour, coming in at a leisurely 30 minutes, and gives plenty of opportunity to take a few snaps of your own on the way. If you’re feeling peckish, stop for some famous dumplings at Yang’s Fry Dumpling (812 Kangding Lu), or grab a Hindquarter Bagelwich (58RMB) and Sumerian coffee at Boom Boom Bagels (39 Anfu Lu).

Camera History Museum

More famous for its cafés than its contemporary art, Anfu Lu has a lot to offer once you stray off the beaten path. Hidden at number 300, the Camera History Museum offers an impressive range of cameras and a close look at the history of the machine. Check out IG Art Café on the second floor, where for the price of a 28RMB Americano (or a slice of cheesecake), you can have a go in the VR chair.

Capsule Gallery

Capsule Gallery Anfu Lu

Capsule Gallery is where the contemporary tour continues, contemporary in this case meaning peculiar and outlandish with a dash of rebellion. Capsule isn’t afraid to push boundaries in the world of Chinese art – its most recent exhibition delved head first into a feminist dialogue. Inconspicuously hidden behind an unassuming metal door, Capsule is unexpectedly spacious inside, with room to offer different spaces for interactive artworks.

Capsule Gallery is at building 16, Lane 275, AnfuLu, near Wukang Lu, Xuhui district.

Leo Xu Projects

Throwing out just as many defiant vibes is three-storey Leo Xu Projects. The current exhibition features two new pieces by Yale educated Iranian artist Tala Madini, whose previous work was featured in the recent MoMA exhibition in NYC, in which the museum boldly replaced major works by Picasso and Matisse with artists from countries affected by Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’. The rest of the show features work from artists facing their own immigration crisis, expressing personal stories of exclusion and prejudice.

Leo Xu Projects is at building 3, Lane 49, Fuxing Xi Lu, near Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, Xuhui district.

Don Gallery

Don Gallery FFC

The last art stop on this downtown tour has played a key role in raising the profile of Chinese contemporary art over the past decade. Established in 2007, Don Gallery has discovered and nurtured many artists who have gone on to be regarded as some of the best in the Chinese contemporary art world, including the likes of Han Feng, Liu Ren and Zhang Ruyi. Buzz 0206 to get in to the building.

Don Gallery is at unit 26, 1331 Fuxing Zhong Lu, near Fenyang Lu, Xuhui district.

Killer cocktails and tasty bites

If you haven’t already been waylaid by hunger, make your way to the nearby Union Trading Company (64 Fenyang Lu) for some first-class cocktails by drinks master Yao Lu and bar snacks from Madison Kitchen owner Austin Hu.

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