Part 3: Shanghai

And then it was back to Shanghai! We started off our second full day there with a visit to the Shanghai Museum. It’s really an incredible museum of Chinese antiquity. It’s also free but they limit the number of visitors to 8000 a day. So go early to ensure that you can get in. We checked out the sculpture, the bronzes, and the ceramics. In the sculpture section, there were amazing sculptures of the Lokapala, a guardian of the eight cardinal directions. I’d never heard of this figure in mythology before. They were depicted a bit like Kali, stepping on the heads of demons. They were really a sight to see. Also, there was a sculpture of a dog, which is always great in my book. The bronze section had some impressive pieces. However, it was really neat to see a ding, a cooking vessel in the bronze section, which is what the museum building was modeled after.

Ding, a cooking vessel, from the Shanghai Museum
Ding, a cooking vessel, from the Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum

Both the sculpture and bronze sections were really impressive but I was bowled over by the ceramics. I apparently have a fondness for Tang dynasty sculpture. There was this figurine of a woman holding a parakeet that really made me delirious with joy. There were many wonderfully intricate vases with beautiful dragons and fish. I am particularly fond of the vases or vessels that had a blue background with orange/red figures. We also briefly checked out the furniture, the jade section, and the Minority people’s gallery. There were incredibly intricate jade pieces and amazing masks in the Minority people’s gallery.

Lady with Parrot, Tang Dynasty, Shanghai Museum
Lady with Parrot, Tang Dynasty, Shanghai Museum

After taking some time for the past, it was time to check out the contemporary art scene at M50, a contemporary art district. It’s a mostly pedestrian area with 20+ buildings full of art galleries. You can just wander down alleys and inside buildings and check out the galleries. One gallery “island60” had a collective art show of video art. I’ve never seen video art so effectively done before. For instance, one piece had the static image of a McDonald’s soda with a straw. Liquid was pouring out and there was a woman washing herself in it. Brilliant. Another work showed actual smoke coming from a woman’s cigarette. Each piece had a story corresponding. But my favorite of all of them was a video of a person picking up a cell phone on the street. The person would stand on the street waiting. Above them, there was the word “Call” and a phone number. If the viewer called the number, the painting would actually ring. The person would pick up the phone…and then instantly disappear. The phone would crash to the floor and then a new person would appear. It was the best use of the cellphone in a piece I’ve ever seen. I hope to see more of this collective’s work in the near future.

There were also many pieces with oversized babies with symbols of Communism. One was a giant baby sitting on a tank. The muzzle said “Made in China.” Another artist showed babies on alligators and other perilous situations. I liked M50; it’s definitely worth a visit each time since the art will always be changing.

That’s all for now!

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