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October 17, 2011

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Museum art and espresso

SHANGHAI'S museums are interesting not only for their art, but also their architecture and history. A number have cafes and coffee or a glass of wine goes well with art. Wang Jie explains.

A number of Shanghai art museums have interesting histories and architecture and are worth a visit in their own right. Some also have cafes, or they are near cafes, so visitors can enjoy architecture, artwork and wine or espresso.

Here's a sketch of a few museums.

Shanghai Art Museum

The Shanghai Art Museum, built in 1933, was originally the club house of the Shanghai Racing Club and is famous for its clock tower.

Located at the edge of People's Square, it is the home of the Shanghai Biennale and showcases the best of domestic and international artists.

During the Chinese War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) it was taken over by Japanese occupiers and used for their military headquarters.

In 1955, the building was renovated and a terrace was constructed on the roof. Wide stairs were constructed to make the clock tower more accessible. In the 2006 Shanghai Biennale, one artist speeded up the clock as part of an art installation.

The view from the roof of People's Square and downtown Shanghai is spectacular.

After visiting the museum, visitors can go to the rooftop to glassed-in Kathleen's 5 and enjoy the view and a meal or a drink. Or, they can move outside to the terrace when the weather is nice.

The current exhibition is "Xenia Hausner: damage - about love and survival.'' Xenia Hausner informs her works quite forcefully through photography.

Open: Daily 9am-5pm

Address: 325 Nanjing Rd W.

How to get there: Metro Lines 1, 2, 8 to People's Square

Current exhibition: "Xenia Hausner: damage - about love and survival," through November 7

Minsheng Art Museum

Established by the China Minsheng Bank, the museum opened in April, 2010 in the Red Town art area in the city center.

Red Town is so called because it's part of the old red brick Shanghai No. 10 Steel Factory.

Today Red Town is considered a creative zone, housing the Shanghai Sculpture Museum and park and a collection of cafes, gift shops and offices.

It is a popular place for weekend picnics on the grassy areas among the free-standing sculpture.

The two-story main building covers 4,000 square meters and is notable for not having a single supporting pillar inside, making it an ideal venue for exhibitions.

The museum officially opened in April 2010 with the landmark exhibition "Thirty Years of Chinese Contemporary Art 1979-2009." The show was considered a milestone in the history of modern China's contemporary art.

Since then, Minsheng Art Museum has showcased a series of exhibitions of high-quality contemporary art, including solo shows by Zhang Enli and Liu Wei.

To celebrate its first anniversary, the museum now offers each visitor a free cup of espresso.

Visitors can relax, read magazines and chat on the first floor in the Room of Switzerland, decorated with drawings by Swiss new media artist Yves Netzhammer.

Outside there are landscaped grounds, lawns, art galleries and design shops.

Beca Cafe and Costa Coffee are just a few steps away.

The current show is "Thirty Years of Chinese Contemporary Art - Moving Image in China 1988-2011," which display critical moving image art pieces created since the end of 1980s in China.

The big names of the pioneers in the area include Zhang Peili, Qiu Zhijie and Yang Fudong.

Open: Tuesdays-Sundays, 10am-9pm

Address: Bldg F, 570 Huaihai Rd W.

How to get there: Metro Lines 3 and 4 to Hongqiao Road Station

Current exhibition: "Thirty Years of Chinese Contemporary Art - Moving Image in China 1988-2011," through November 27

Rockbund Art Museum

The Rockbund Art Museum is situated in the famous Rockbund area of the Bund where Suzhou Creek flows into the Huangpu River. The building formerly housed the Royal Asiatic Society and the Shanghai Museum, one of the country's first modern museums.

The building was restored by British architect David Chipperfield, who directed the master planning of the Museum Island in Berlin.

The original structure, built in 1932, was designed by George Wilson of the British firm Palmer and Wilson, founded in Hong Kong. The hybrid architectural style is integrated with the cityscape and blends Western architectural elements and Chinese decorative elements.

To retain the feeling of the original historical building, Chipperfield stayed true to the 1932 design in the main exterior facade.

The opening exhibition of Rockbund Art Museum last May featured contemporary artist Cai Guoqiang, known for using fireworks to create his art. Another exhibition featured big-name contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi and an exhibition curated by Hou Hanru.

The museum operates a small cafe on the sixth floor.

The current exhibition is a spectacular solo show by Zhang Huan, titled "Q Confucius," addressing a series of issues confronting China today, such as the role of religion and spirituality in a fast-changing materialistic society, China's role in the modern world, sustainable development.

The large sculptures, ash paintings and installation works were created especially for this exhibition at the Rockbund Art Museum.

Open: Tuesdays-Wednesdays, Sundays, 10am-6pm; Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays, 10am-9pm

Address: 20 Huqiu Rd

How to get there: Metro Lines 2, 10 to Nanjing Road E. Station

Current exhibition: "Q Confucius" by Zhang Huan, through January 29, 2012

Longmen Art Projects

Sinan Mansions is becoming a fashion, style and art beacon, blessedly less crowded and glitzy than Xintiandi. On weekends, there's no flood of tourists.

Sinan Road, one of the city's quieter roads, was the home of a number of celebrities in old Shanghai. Today a number of its old houses and apartment buildings have been renovated into galleries, restaurants and fashion shops.

Longmen Art Projects occupies a three-story renovated building where colorful paintings by Walasse Ting (1929-2010) are on display.

Gallery owner Lily Lee, former president of Taiwan Galleries Association, occasionally gives a tour and has been known to invite real art lovers for a cup of coffee on the second floor.

Open: Daily, 10am-6:30pm (1F), Tuesdays-Sundays, 10am-6:30pm (2F); appointment only (3F)

Address: Bldg 23, Sinan Mansions, 515 Fuxing Rd M.

How to get there: Metro Line 1 to Huangpi Road S. Station, Metro Line 10 to Xintiandi Station

Current exhibition: Walasse Ting


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