7 new art exhibits making a splash this spring

Get your creative juices flowing this spring!

By Khushboo Khanna

Photograph: courtesy Long Museum (The "Joel Mesler: Spiritual Journey" exhibition)

Of the many joys of living in Shanghai, one of the most prominent is its socially and culturally vibrant cityscape, offering enriching experiences that truly nurture your soul. With the onset of spring and good weather days just around the corner, there’s lots to explore and do in the city. Here’s a list of 7 self-reflective art exhibitions that will leave you spell-bound and deep in thought, from the renowned Joel Mesler debut show in Asia, to homegrown contemporary artist Cao Zaifei’s creativity breathing life into mundane everyday objects.

Joel Mesler

Photograph: courtesy Long Museum

This spring, Long Museum is offering the humans of Shanghai an exclusive chance to visit Joel Mesler’s debut solo museum exhibition in Asia. From humble beginnings in Los Angeles as an art dealer to achieving world-wide recognition for his unique style of combining bold colours, prints, and calligraphy, Mesler’s rise to prominence as an artist of the millennium is astounding. This show has elements of his familiar style and incorporates motifs such as the iconic patterned banana leaf wallpaper of the Beverly Hills Hotel, swimming pools, beach balls, balloons, disco balls, and donuts.

Photograph: courtesy Long Museum

Over 50 pieces of Mesler's latest works from 2020-2022 are on display which highlight his life philosophy, of the journey of presentness, living by the mantra of "one day at a time". This includes a wall panel of 20 canvases with Mesler’s personal meditation practice words on eye-catching green canvases that pay tribute to legendary Andy Warhol’s gridded portraits of the 1960s.

Photograph: courtesy Long Museum (Joel Mesler: Untitled (Spiritual Journey), Pigment on linen on three panels, 84 X 195 inches, 2022)

Long Museum (West Bund), 3398 Longteng Dadao. Until Tue 18 Apr. 100RMB.

Group Exhibition

Photograph: courtesy TANK Shanghai

TANK Shanghai presents "Suspension of Disbelief", a collective art display of 7 international artists curated by awardees of the coveted Tank Curator Prize. This exhibition features art by Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Florencia Rodríguez Giles, Lea Guldditte Hestelund, Ursula Mayer, Himali Singh Soin, Tai Shani, and Nora Turato, drawing inspiration from the improbable, uncertain, unthinkable and creating an elusive journey of human fantasy.

Photograph: courtesy TANK Shanghai (Agnes Meyer-Brandis: The Moon Goose Colony, 2011)

"Suspension of Disbelief" is an inward reflection, a self-awareness, an out-of-body experience that acknowledges a moment of poetic faith. By presenting artworks that force you to open your mind to possibilities, this art show renders a reflective experience that poses questions on our reality and limitations we place on our imagination. Each artist brings their own cosmologies, almost as if they each have a magic trick up their sleeve, waiting to impress a viewer who knows it is a trick, but is nonetheless captivated by the question: Is it actually possible? This very feeling of unnerving uncertainty is the crux of this curated experience.

Photograph: courtesy TANK Shanghai

TANK Shanghai, 2380 Longteng Dadao. Until Sun 7 May. 50RMB.

Group Exhibition

Photograph: courtesy Perrotin Shanghai

A pop art collective show bringing together works of 21 internationally renowned artists such as Ivan Argote, Daniel Arsham and Bi Rongrong, "I Feel the Way You Feel" curated by Zhou Yi showcases art practices in the current media environment. In the digital age we live in today, artists explore and engage various mediums, oftentimes having to invent new mixed media to express clearly a feeling which at the time is overwhelmingly isolating yet universal. Although new media thinking typically excludes works in "obsolete" traditional mediums, this curation purposefully chose to focus on them.

Photograph: View of the group exhibition "I Feel The Way You Feel" at Perrotin Shanghai, 2023 / Mengqi Bao. Courtesy of the artists and Perrotin.

At first glance, it may appear that the paintings and sculptures are physically unchanged on the outside, but on deeper introspection, you realize they have undergone a transformation that is invisible to the naked eye. This exhibition is an attempt to connect with the viewer, to touch them on a personal level and reassure that you’re not the only one feeling it. Somewhere across the world so far, yet so close in the metaphysical space, someone else feels it too. In the words of Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message.”

Photograph: View of the group exhibition "I Feel The Way You Feel" at Perrotin Shanghai, 2023 / Mengqi Bao. Courtesy of the artists and Perrotin.

Perrotin, 3F, 27 Huqiu Lu. Until Sat 25 Mar. Free.

Group Exhibition

Photograph: courtesy HOW Art Museum

Curated by Xu Tianyi and in honor of the 5th anniversary of the HOW Art Museum, this display includes contemporary works of over 20 artists in the form of installations and videos. Through imaginative reassemblages of time, which is itself enmeshed in the modern perspective of history, the curation attempts to create non-linear histories.

Photograph: courtesy HOW Art Museum (Zhou Xiaohu: You are just a piece of meat, medical models, steel pipe, light, 2016)

The common themes in various works are essentially our interpretations of data that has been provided to us from the outside. The collective emphasizes the idea that existence has no value other than being a part of a moment in time and recording it. The elements that link histories to current sufferings and give them a sociological perspective are the emotions and ideas that individuals had throughout a particular period of time. Insightful, mind-bending and thought-provoking for the philosophy inclined.

Photograph: courtesy HOW Art Museum (Lee Bul: Willing To Be Vulnerable - Metallized Balloon V3, nylon taffeta cloth, polyester with aluminum foil, fan, electronic wiring, 230 X 1000 X 230 cm, 2015)

HOW Art Museum, 1F, 2277 Zuchongzhi Lu. Until Sun 28 May 28. 120RMB. 90RMB (students).

Cao Zaifei

Photograph: via 東画廊Don Gallery on WeChat

Don Gallery is displaying one of China’s most prolific contemporary artists, Cao Zaifei’s mixed media artworks and illustrations in his second solo exhibit, "The Room of Sisyphus". Drawing parallels to Albert Camus’ the Myth of Sisyphus, this exhibit is a showcase of raw emotion, which is bound to stir up some intense feelings and flashbacks of collective uncertainty we faced in the past year. During the period, experiencing a lack of access to material but an incessant need to express emotions through art, Cao turned to paint on kitchen utensils, replacing the man pushing the boulder up a mountain with creative inspirations that showcased what it felt like to be confined to a room of uncertainty in a community.

Photograph: via 東画廊Don Gallery on WeChat (Cao Zaifei: The Room of Sisyphus, oil on canvas, 60 X 73 cm, 2021)

Notable, thought-provoking works such as "The Room of Sisyphus" and "Still Life", along with recent oil-on-canvas paintings, ready-made paintings, and several illustrative performance pieces in this solo exhibition offer a thorough impression of the artist's world view.

Photograph: via 東画廊Don Gallery on WeChat

Don Gallery, 2555-9 Longteng Dadao. Until Sun 5 Mar. Free.

Antoni Gaudí

Photograph: courtesy Meet You Museum

Considered Spain’s national treasure, Antoni Gaudí was probably one of the most celebrated architects in the 19th and 20th century. Such was his influence that nine cultural relics protection units have come together to jointly present the magnificent works of Gaudí’s lifetime.

Having developed a personal style reflective of Islam, Gothic and Baroque architecture, Gaudí was a prominent representative of Catalan modernism. This remarkable exhibition brings to the Chinese viewers for the first ever time over 200 personal works from the architect’s student years, to drawings, models and material samples of structures such as Sagrada Familia, Vinson House, Miramar House and Barthelot House, all of whom are legacy of the maestro.

This exhibition also celebrates 50 years of diplomatic relations between China and Spain, further strengthening their ties to bridge the East and West through cultural exchanges. A visual treat and once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the grandeur of some of the world’s most admired structures, built by a visionary architect whose works outlive him. Do not miss it!

Meet You Museum, Building 3, 210 Wenshui Lu. Begins Tue 21 Mar. Until Sun 2 Jul. From 68RMB.

Blair Whiteford

Photograph: courtesy Pond Society

New York-based artist, Blair Whiteford brings 7 large-scale exquisite pieces of art that combine history, theology and metaphysics to produce flowing pieces in pursuit of divine knowledge. His art draws influence from various movements and periods in art history including the Northern Renaissance era, French post-structuralist thought, and concepts of Gothic science to make compositions that feel at once old, futuristic, and very modern. Whiteford’s known to have a prevalent theme of natural philosophy outshine in his work, and this display continues with that premise.

Photograph: courtesy of the artist, Matthew Brown Gallery and Pond Society (Blair Whiteford: The Temptation of Wind, watercolor and oil on canvas, 243.8 X 396.2 cm, 2022)

With a beautiful mix of oil and watercolour, the artist's brushstrokes are sure to leave you mesmerized at how easily he combines the human form with landscapes. This exhibit will make you transcend time and space, moving back and forth between the past and present, realism and abstract. Quite a journey to undertake!

Photograph: courtesy Pond Society

Pond Society, 2555-4 Longteng Dadao. Until Fri 31 Mar. Free.

Art at its core has the power to heal, ignite and re-affirm. A beautifully expressed idea can make one feel understood by someone they have never met, but feel connected to, almost as if they're cut from the same star, just in different galaxies... Save this post, and visit these exhibits to self-reflect, re-align and rediscover the passion art can evoke in you.

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