A city bursting with creativity, culture and history, Shanghai is fast becoming the Eastern capital of contemporary art. This season, artists, fairs and exhibitions take over the entire city, making for a fascinating three months for those wanting to experience Shanghai’s cutting edge of contemporary art. See what’s on with our guide to Shanghai’s ten best summer shows, art exhibitions and installations.

15 Years of the Contemporary Chinese Art Award at the Power Station of Art

Until 20 July

Although it received more coverage for its very last-minute removal of Ai Wei Wei’s sunflower seeds and wooden stool pieces than for what is actually featured in the exhibition, 15 Years of the Contemporary Chinese Art Award is an unmissable opportunity to get to grips with art from this wonderfully diverse country. As you might expect from what is essentially a greatest hits compilation of one of Asia’s most prestigious art prizes, the Contemporary Chinese Art Award offers visual and intellectual stimulation aplenty, and, as many critics have pointed out, with far more overt messages to be made about the dangers of unwanted rule.

Power Station of Art, 200 Huayuangang Road, Shanghai, China


Strange Days at BANK

19 July  31 August

The wooden stage at BANK gallery, once apparently used for denunciations during the Mao era, will soon be seeing a cultural revolution of a different kind as artist and fashion designer Chen Tianzhao brings a surreal, DayGlo ‘hip hopera’ to the space. The as-yet-untitled opera has visuals supplied from the artist’s film Hip Hop (the backdrop for this opera, and a corner piece of the Strange Days show) and will combine art and trash culture, as well as Eastern and Western influences. Also featured are Lynchian tattoo-covered rappers lipsyncing Cantonese rap songs in a hyper-animated assault on bad taste the artist has called ‘an ode to weed and masturbation.’

BANK, 59 Xiang Gang Lu, Shanghai, China, +86 21 6301 3622


Childhood Friends Getting Fat at the Minsheng Art Museum

Until 31 July

Long considered the greatest and most prestigious of all painting styles, the history painting has near been relegated to the realms of the overblown and the kitsch. Liu Xiaodong could be the artist to change that, bringing an contemporary eye to the genre and depicting the issues that our time is sure to be defined by: climate change crises, economic hardship and the moving webs of immigration and emigration. At the Childhood Friends Getting Fatexhibition, these works will be put into a new context through comparison with decades of the artist’s engagement with those modern mediums – the stills camera and the movie camera.

Minsheng Art Museum, 570 West Huaihai Road, Shanghai, China, +86 21 6282 8729


Advance Through Retreat at the Rockbund Art Museum

Until 3 August

Based upon one of the many aphorisms from Sun Tzu’s seminal 6th century book of military strategy The Art of War, ‘advance through retreat’ is a maxim crucial to modern military and business strategy. This summer, however, the curators at the Rockbund Art Museum apply it to the artistic battlefield, creating a show brought together by the idea of advancing through retreat: that is, using art and cultural tradition to subvert, challenge and progress contemporary art. The exhibition features artist both from China and international creatives using a number of mediums, from modern film-making to an updated version of traditional Chinese calligraphy.

Rockbund Art Museum, 20 Huqiu Road, Shanghai, China, +86 21 3310 9985


Dreaming in Color at Art Labor Gallery

Until 25 August

Art Labor Gallery, in the former French Concession, has been central to the development of Shanghai as a cultural centre to be reckoned with through their dedication to a select roster of artists, half-Chinese and half-international, as well as their aim to prevent the scene from stagnating by constantly discovering new talent. The latest manifestation of this can be seen in Dreaming in Color, a kaleidoscopic exhibition focusing on dreaming and fantasy, which features contributions from the gallery’s impressive pool of talent to create a show that is at once surreal and sublime.

Art Labor Gallery, 570 Yongjia Road, Shanghai, China, +86 21 3460 5331


In Between Days IV at Art+ Shanghai Gallery

Until 31 August

This year, Art+ Shanghai Gallery bring us the fourth installment of their In Between Daysseries of exhibitions, showcasing the finest works from their collections both domestic and international. And this may just be the best one yet. As well as showcasing their new location, throughout the exhibition there is a fascinating preoccupation with a sort of surreal super-nature – unicorn, tigers, and a pair of ceramic horses being just some of the strange zoological items on display. Also featured heavily is artist Xie Aige, whose lighthearted sculptural musings on balance and nature are displayed for the first time in this gallery.

Art+ Shanghai Gallery, 191 South Suzhou Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China, +86 21 6333 7223


Photo Shanghai at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre

September 5  7

The Asia-Pacific region is now considered as a major art market, a development reflected this year in the art fairs launching in Shanghai. This year, the city offers a first for China withPhoto Shanghai, the inaugural international art fair in the country dedicated to the photographic arts. From Chengdu to the Czech Republic, some of the world’s finest and most famous galleries are exhibiting photography’s greats, both contemporary and historical across the whole of the Shanghai Exhibition Centre. Become familiar with this hot new fair before it becomes a crucial date in the cultural calendar akin to Hong Kong’s Art Basel.

Shanghai Exhibition Center, Nanjing West Road, Shanghai, China, +86 21 2216 2216


SH Contemporary at the Shanghai Exhibition Center

12  14 September

Now entering its seventh year, and already established as one of the most important Asian art fairs, the summer is rounded off with the BolognaFiere SH Contemporary. Aside from the section dedicated to talks and seminars, the fair offers four varied project spaces: one featuring the best of the world’s galleries and curation across all of the mediums of contemporary art; one highlighting the oft-neglected art of a selected country or nation; one to bring exposure to hot young talent all over the world; and another to offer an exclusive and exciting series of site-specific installations. A must-visit exhibition for everyone from the collector to the casual art fan.

Shanghai Exhibition Center, Nanjing West Road, Shanghai, China, +86 21 2216 2216


The Artist Always Gets Paid Last at Island6

Until September 12

As the title may suggest, the Artist Always Gets Paid Last exhibition focuses on one of the biggest problems for those working in the creative industries, the idea that the artist always gets paid last, if at all, with their creative vision lost in commercial demands. However, rather than presenting the issue from the obvious, didactic perspective, the loose international collective of artists that makes up Island 6 turns its signature wry eye on the problem. Using mediums from installation to video art and LED light pieces, the artists take us to a strange land where creative endeavour has fallen foul of hungry capitalists.

Island6, 50 Moganshan Road, Shanghai, China, +86 21 6227 7856


Twofold Solo Exhibition: Jeffrey Shaw and Hu Jeming at Chronus Art Centre

Until 28 November

Although art is all around you this summer in Shanghai, nowhere is this as true as theChronus Art Centre. The first artist of their double-headed retrospective looks at the work ofJeffrey Shaw and his 360-degree panorama film experience AVIE (Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment). This will be alongside the work of Jieming, one of China’s most interesting (and original in both senses) digital artists. Together, they create a show that will really show the fantastic possibilities digital technologies can bring to the art world as they create unique environments totally impossible in reality.

Chronus Art Centre, 50 Moganshan Road, Shanghai, China, +86 21 5271 5789


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