MUSEUMS IN SHANGHAI: SHANGHAI MUSEUM, NEW ART MUSEUMS AND OFF-BEAT MUSEUMS

SHANGHAI MUSEUM

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Shanghai Museum
Shanghai Museum (overlooking the People's Square, Metro Lines 1, 2 and 8 to People’s Square Station) contains China's finest collection of art, wonderfully displayed in a spectacular $70 million building that looks like a ding — an an ancient, bronze, tripod cooking vessel with handles. Made of sand-colored granite and designed by local architects, the museum is 29.5 meters high and has five floors and a total area of 39,200 square meters with exhibits on things like calligraphy, Ming furniture, ethnic costumes, bronze sculptures, coins and pottery from different periods of China’s long history: The only museums with comparable collections are the Palace Museum in Taiwan and the Forbidden Palace in Beijing.

The new Shanghai Museum building opened in 1996. The museum used to be housed in a depressing old building on South Henan Road that once belonged to the gangster Du Yuesheng. In 1992, the museum directors sold the building for $25 million and raised money from donors for the new structure while the collection had no home for four years. Many of the donors were from old Shanghai families. Those that gave $1 million or more have exhibition spaces named after them.

The Shanghai Museum building has round top and a square base, symbolising the ancient Chinese perception of the world as “round sky, square earth”. It is said that the inspiration for the design was specifically provided by the Da Ke Ding, now on exhibit in the museum. Shanghai Museum has 11 galleries for permanent collections and three temporary exhibition spaces. In the early 2000s the museum hosted an exhibit of 72 “national treasures”---works so rare and valuable they are hardly ever shown. Entrance to the exhibit cost $750.

Facilities at the museum include an information desk, audio tours, audio-visual hall, coat check, bookstore, museum shop, tea room and visitor restaurant located at the side of Xizang Road outside southern entrance, offering fast food Volunteer Service is available at the information desk. Advanced digital audio tours on museum’s permanent collection are available in Chinese, English, French, Japanese, German, Korean, Spanish and Italian. Audio Tour in foreign languages cost RMB 40 yuan to rent the set, with deposit of RMB 400 yuan or USD 50 dollars, or passport.

Location: 201 People’s Avenue, Tel: +86 21 63723500, Hotline: 96968686 Website: shanghaimuseum.net , Email webmaster@shanghai-museum.org Open Hours: The museum is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm everyday except Monday when it is closed. Last entry at 4:00pm. Admission is Free. Entrance is at the South Gate. Exit is at North Gate. Labels and captions are in both English and Chinese.

Shanghai Museum Collection

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Painting in the Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum boasts a first-rate collection of ancient bronzes, porcelains and paintings from the various dynasties. Among the 120,000 historical objects are works of calligraphy, seals, jade, furniture, ancient bronzes, ceramics, ancient coins, paintings, sculptures, minority art, foreign art, currencies and off-beat items such as ceramic barnyard animals, marionettes, shadow puppets, and an ax decorated with precious stones. Some of the Shanghai museum's best pieces were seized by the Communists after 1949 from private collections. The Shanghai Museum houses several items of national importance, including one of three extant specimens of a “transparent” bronze mirror from the Han Dynasty It also has one of the finest collections in the world of Tang horses.

The Shanghai Museum has eleven galleries and three special temporary exhibition halls. The permanent galleries are: Gallery of Ancient Chinese Bronze, Gallery of Ancient Chinese Sculpture, Gallery of Ancient Chinese Ceramics, Gallery of Ancient Chinese Jades, Gallery of Ancient Chinese Paintings, Gallery of Ancient Chinese Calligraphy, Gallery of Ancient Chinese Seals, Gallery of Ancient Chinese Numismatics (Coins and paper money) , Gallery of Chinese Furniture in Ming and Qing dynasties, Gallery of Arts and Crafts by Chinese Minorities, The Chinese Bronze Gallery contains over 400 bronzes with unique shapes, designs and uses They dates from the 18th century B.C. to the A.D. 3rd century. The ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery houses about 120 statues and shows the development of Chinese sculpture from the Warring States period to the Ming Dynasty. Many of the works are related to Buddhism and show how Buddhist sculpture in China developed through confrontation and harmonization with Chinese traditions and culture.

The Chinese Painting gallery contains scrolls by masters from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. The works are showcased in long corridors flanked with flying-eave roofs and low balustrades. The Chinese Calligraphy Gallery starts with inscriptions on oracle bones and bronzes and moves onto bamboo slips and stone steles. It houses about 70 masterpieces, including works by the Two Wangs — Wang Xizhe and Wang Xianzhi — along with examples of seals, official, running, cursive and regular calligraphy scripts. The Chinese Seal Gallery contains over 500 seals dating from the Western Zhou period to the late Qing period, showing the changes that seals and seal carving went through in that time.

The Chinese Minority Nationalities Art Gallery is home to 600 pieces, including costumes, embroideries, batiks, metal wares, weapons, bamboo and wood crafts. The Ming and Qing Furniture Galley contains about 100 pieces that highlight the elegant simplicity of furniture from that period. The gallery features a Ming-style eception hall and study along with models of furniture unearthed in Ming tombs.

The collection of minority costumes is on the top floor. The sculpture gallery and exhibition hall are on the ground floor. At the entrance to the second floor ceramics exhibit is a sign that reads "Pottery belongs to all mankind, but porcelain is China's creation." The calligraphy and painting are kept in a magnificent space on the third floor with wooden floors and traditional Chinese roofing. The scroll painting are displayed on special tables that tilt towards the viewer.

The Chinese Currency Gallery houses 3,000 piece. Among them are some of the world’s oldest money: cowry shells, spade money and sword money and the earliest paper currency. The Ancient Chinese Jade Gallery houses 300 pieces, dating from the Neolithic Age to the Qing Dynasty. There are seals. Tablets, steles and carvings of animals, monsters and divine figures. The Ancient Ceramic Gallery features lovely porcelains and celadons and traces the history of Chinese ceramics from 8,000-year-old pottery to Song classical ware to elegantly painted vessels of the Qing Dynasty.

Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition

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Urban Planning Exhibition Center (near People's Square, adjacent to the city’s municipal government building, Metro Lines 1, 2 and 8 to People’s Square Station) boasts a 1:500 scale model of Shanghai that covers 6,400 square feet and is said to be the world's largest model. Housed in a ballroom-size room, it is surrounded by a walkways and can be viewed from a balcony above. Periodically the lights are switched off and thousands of building are lit up.

Washington Post architecture critic Philip Kennicott wrote: “It is surreal, and beautiful, a bit absurd, and it seems to offer, in one comprehensive glance, a sense of the city in its massive, skyscraping, outward spreading totality. Here, perhaps one can absorb what its means to build some 10,000 high-rise buildings in a quarter century." The model forecasts what th city will be like when all of the construction is complete in 2020. It altered every few months to keep abreast of changes.

Shanghai’s development has been meticulously planned for decades and continues to be. Here you see how the city looks now as well as in the future. The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center is a six-story building, with two basement levels, which displays Shanghai ‘s urban planning and development. Exhibitions include models of planned and recent developments, as well as Shanghai ‘s history. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a huge scale model of the city of Shanghai, showing all existing and approved buildings. Visitors can view the model at “ground level”, or ascend a gallery running around it for views from above.The model is intended to represent the entire city, including all planned developments. However, a few stout pillars, necessitated by the building design, penetrate the scale model. This means certain areas are missing from the model, and views of the model are sometimes obscured by the columns. Location: 100 People Avenue, Tel: + 82 21 63184477

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

Shanghai Science Technology Museum (2000 Century Avenue, Pudong, Metro Line 2, Shanghai Science and Technology Museum Station, or Line 4, Pudian Road Station) is a large museum close to Century Park, the largest park within the inner districts of the city. Opened in 2001, it is one of China's most-visited museums. Russian and U.S. presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush visited it in 2001 when it hosted an APEC meeting Barack Obama also visited it

Century Square was built in 1995, and the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum was planned for its western side as a key project for popularizing science in the Yangtze Delta region. The museum has 14 main permanent exhibitions and four science-themed cinemas. The exhibitions are: 1) Spectrum of Life, a natural exhibit which imitates the scenery of Yunnan Province and displays its diversity of creatures; 2) Earth Exploration; 3) Cradle of Design, where visitors can use CAD/CAM to design and build small things; 4) Children's Rainbow Land; 5) Light of Wisdom; 6) Home on Earth; 7) Information Era; 8) World of Robots, with a piano-playing robot; 9) Light of Exploration, an exhibit which showcases human scientific achievements of the 20th century; 10) Human and Health; 11) Space Navigation; 12) World of Animals; and 13 ) Spiders Exhibition.

The Chinese Ancient Science and Technology Gallery showcases ancient Chinese inventions and works. The Explorers' Gallery features Chinese and foreign explorers. The Academicians' Gallery features contemporary scientists from China, particularly Shanghai. There used to be a a small-scale hydroelectric power station, a 700 square meters rain forest and an earthquake simulator but these are gone. The exhibitions are intended to "represent cutting-edge scientific development" but many have not been updated since their installation. There are also two temporary exhibition halls and two IMAX cinemas. The museum is open from 9:00am to 5:15pm and closed on Monday (except holidays).

New Museums in Shanghai

In 2012, two new showcase museums — the China Art Palace and the Power Station of Art — were opened with great fanfare. Bill Savadove of AFP wrote: “Critics have raised questions over how Shanghai will fill the massive spaces with meaningful exhibitions. "They're basically modelling themselves on New York or London," said Chris Gill, a Shanghai-based artist and arts writer. "China tends to build these huge art museums. The problem is what they're going to put in it. The content side is always compromised by the political situation." [Source: Bill Savadove, AFP, September 30, 2012]

“China censors art that it considers politically sensitive or pornographic, with local officials having the right to pull individual works or shut down shows. Shanghai officials in September barred display of a photo work by artist Chi Peng, which shows a gorilla at Beijing's famed Tiananmen Square, according to his microblog. In 2006, Shanghai shut down an exhibition by dozens of Chinese artists at a private art museum for showing "pornographic" images, described as pictures of naked women.

“The exhibitions in place for the opening of the China Art Museum are heavily weighted towards Chinese art, but one floor has foreign works including a painting by Rembrandt and another by Johannes Vermeer -- on loan from the Netherlands' Rijksmuseum. Shanghai university student Wang Qingyong marvelled at the size of the new museum. "There is a lot of space. More works will come," she said gazing at a painting by the American artist Robert Bechtle. Shanghai has already tested the China Pavilion as a venue for art, spending $1.4 million for China's biggest ever exhibition of the works of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso last year, but attendance was lower than expected.”

Art Museums in Shanghai

Long Museum is a private art museum founded by Chinese billionaire collectors Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei. The museum has two locations in Shanghai: the Long Museum Pudong (Metro Line 7, Huamu Road Station) and Long Museum West Bund (Metro Lines 7 and 12, Middle Longhua Road Station, Exit 5) In 2016, a third location was opened in Chongqing and a Wuhan branch is scheduled for 2018. The Long Museum Pudong was officially opened in 2012. The Long Museum West Bund opened in 2014 and was China's largest private museum at the time of its opening. The architecture was designed by Liu Yichun of Atelier Deshaus. Website: /thelongmuseum.org

On the West Bund branch, Sam Gaskin wrote for CNN: “With its expansive steel skin, tall parasol-shaped concrete pillars, and huge vestigial coal hoppers, the 33,000-square-meter Long Museum West Bund makes a grand impression in a former industrial site beside Shanghai's Huangpu River....The museum is the second and the largest private institution established by prominent Chinese art collectors Wang Wei and her husband Liu Yiqian. It has the potential to become Shanghai's equivalent of a Guggenheim or a Whitney. [Source: Sam Gaskin, CNN, April 30, 2014]

Yuz Museum ((Metro Lines 11, Yunjin Lu Station) is the second major private institution to open in the West Bund area. Established in 2014 by the Chinese-Indonesian billionaire collector, Budi Tek, it host rotating exhibitions made up largely of works from Tek’s own massive collection of Western and Eastern (mostly contemporary) art. Housed inside a former hangar of Longhua Airport, the venue boasts a total area of 9,000 square meters.

According to Time Out Shanghai: “Intended as a beacon of contemporary Asian art, the old space has been expertly designed by renowned Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, making the historical buildings feel as contemporary as the pieces contained within. Heading into the main gallery, first impressions are of immense size; not only of the aircraft hangar, but of the pieces of art too. Natural light flooding in from the windows on the towering hangar doors illuminates the installations. [Source: Time Out, April 25, 2014]

And what installations they are. Ranging from the absolutely huge (‘Planes’ by Adel Abdessemed consists of three confusingly-intertwined aircraft), to the comparatively tiny (‘Tobacco Project’ by Xu Bing includes many delightfully adorned items of smoking paraphernalia), these pieces have the power to inspire wonder, as well as excite imaginations of all ages. It is difficult to not be impressed in some way by art of this scale, especially when so much of it is displayed together in such a vast, imposing space. Open 10.30am-5.30pm, closed Mondays; Admission: 60RMB, Tel: 6426 1901

Rockbund Art Museum (on Huqiu Road, Metro Line 2 and 10, East Nanjing Road Station) is a contemporary art museum housed in the former Royal Asiatic Society building completed in 1933 near The Bund waterfront. There are no permanent collections. Featured Chinese artists have included Cai Guo-Qiang and Zeng Fanzhi.

Shanghai Himalayas Museum, (Metro Lines 2, 7 and 16, Longyang Road Station), formerly known as Shanghai Zendai MoMA, is a privately funded, non-profit art institute in Pudong.Located at the Himalayas Center, a landmark in Shanghai designed by Arata Isozaki, the new site of the museum was opened to public in 2012.

China Art Palace

The China Art Museum (in Pudong, Metro Line 8, China Art Museum Station or Lines 7 and 8, Yaohua Road Station) also called the China Art Palace or its original name, Shanghai Art Museum. Housed in the former China Pavilion of Expo 2010, it opened in 2012 and is one of the largest art museums in Asia, with 64,000 square meters (688,890 square feet) of floor space. "The scale and configuration is matchless in Asia. It is close to America's Metropolitan Museum of Art, France's Musee d'Orsay and other internationally famous art museums," Shanghai culture chief Hu Jinjun said before the opening. The quality of the collect at the China Art Palace is good but nowhere near that of the Met or Musee d'Orsay.

The China Pavilion of the Shanghai Expo was built between 2007 and 2010 and was the largest, tallest and most expensive pavilion at the Expo, costing an estimated US$220 million. Standing almost 64 meters tall and mostly imperial red in color, it resembles a traditional city gate and was dubbed "the Crown of the East" due to its resemblance to an ancient crown, but some say it looks more like a giant mai jong table. It towers over smaller pavilions for Hong Kong and Macao. The former looks like a ice cube; the latter a crouching rabbit. Taiwan has a pavilion nearby. The Chinese Pavilion (China Art Museum) building was designed by a team led by architect He Jingtang, who were inspired by dougong Chinese corbel brackets and ancient ding bronze cauldrons

The China Art Museum has a collection of about 14,000 artworks, mainly of Chinese modern art. "The Bright Moon Rises from the Sea – Origin of the Chinese Modern and Contemporary Art" is a permanent exhibition, covering two floors with more than 6,000 works of art, that chronicles the development of contemporary and modern Chinese art, starting with the Shanghai School at the end of the Qing Dynasty. The Exhibition for Noted Painters is a permanent exhibition with works some of China’s most famous modern Chinese artists, including He Tianjian, Xie Zhiliu, and Cheng Shifa from the Shanghai School; Lin Fengmian, Guan Liang, and Wu Guanzhong who pioneered the blending of Chinese and Western art styles; and Hua Tianyou, a founder of modern Chinese sculpture.

The museum frequently hosts special themed exhibitions. In its first year of operation it hosted more than a dozen special exhibitions including Taiwanese art, the second Shanghai Photography Exhibition, and Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet from the collection of the Musée d'Orsay of Paris.

The museum is located at 205 Shangnan Road in Pudong, Shanghai. Admission is free except for special exhibitions, which cost 20 yuan. The museum is closed on Mondays except for national holidays. In the first year of its operation, China Art Museum received nearly 2 million visitors.

Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project

Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project (Metro Line 11, Longyao Road station) opened in 2019 and is housed in the newly built West Bund Museum. Designed by the British architect David Chipperfield and featuring more than 27,000 square feet of exhibition space, the museum consists of three exhibition halls clad in a jade-like glass and linked by a central atrium.

Amy Qin wrote in the New York Times: “When the Pompidou Center first floated the idea of opening a Chinese outpost more than a decade ago, skeptics back home in France were still fiercely debating the question of whether the country’s cherished national museums should have a role in promoting political and commercial interests abroad. [Source: Amy Qin, New York Times, November 5, 2019]

“Situated along the banks of the Huangpu River on Shanghai’s version of Museum Mile, the new outpost is a collaboration with the West Bund Group, a Chinese state-owned development corporation that together with the local government has reportedly invested more than $3 billion in recent years to transform a former industrial neighborhood into a 7-mile waterfront cultural corridor.

“The Pompidou is calling the project the “largest ever cultural exchange” between France and China. Compared to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which is based on a 30-year agreement between the French and United Arab Emirates governments, the scale of the project is nevertheless modest. Much like the Pompidou Málaga, which opened in 2015, the Shanghai project is a five-year contract in which the Pompidou Center curates shows specifically for the Chinese outpost using works lent from its vast collection, while also providing educational programming and vocational training for Chinese museum professionals. At the end of the five years, both sides will have the opportunity to end or extend the partnership.

“In turn, the West Bund Group will cover the costs of the physical space and also pay the Pompidou a lump sum of about 2.75 million euros each year, excluding transport and insurance, according to a July interview with Serge Lasvignes, president of the Pompidou, in the French magazine Le Point.”

Power Station of Art

Power Station of Art (Metro Line 4 and 8, South Xizang Road Station, Exit 2) is a contemporary art museum in Shanghai housed in a former power station. Opened in 2012, is China's first state run contemporary art museum. It is located on the site of the Expo 2010 and on the left bank of the Huangpu River. It opened with an exhibition of contemporary art from the Centre Pompidou in Paris' entitled Electric Fields, Surrealism and Beyond. The museum has 40,000 square meters (430,556 square feet) of space. The conversion of the power station to a museum cost $64 million. Again there are concerns about filling the museum’s space as has no collection of its own, an annual budget of about $3 million, and fewer than 10 staff to arrange exhibitions. "Compared to public museum budgets in developed Western countries, our exhibition budget is very low," Li Xu, the Deputy Director of the state-run Power Station of Art (PSA) museum, told CNN.

Power Station of Art is often likened to the Tate Modern in London, another museum made from a converted power station. Sam Gaskin of CNN wrote: “The Tate's total income for 2012-2013 was nearly £158 million. That kind of big budget is able to draw in big crowds, such as the 4.8 million visitors in 2013. In Shanghai, the PSA received 380,000 visitors in that same year, a modest number for a city as large as Shanghai. [Source:Sam Gaskin, CNN, April 30, 2014]

The Power Station of Art (PSA) is also home to the Shanghai Biennale. Renovated from the former Nanshi Power Plant, which was the Pavilion of Future during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the building an internal height of 27 meters and houses exhibition sections that add up to 15-thousand square meters. It 165-meter-tall chimney has been shaped into an independent exhibition space.

Off-Beat Museums in Shanghai

Off-Beat Museums in Shanghai include the Shanghai Glasses Museum, Shanghai Animation Museum, Shanghai Railway Museum Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum, Shanghai Gallery of Antique Music Boxes and Mechanical Works, Public Security Museum, Shanghai Chopsticks Museum, Shanghai Ink Museum, Shanghai Typewriter Museum, ) China Dairy Museum, Shanghai Postal Museum, Shanghai Police Museum, and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Check “The 10 Most Unusual Museums in Shanghai” chinahighlights.com/ or “Shanghai’s 10 Most Unusual Museums” echinacities.com

Propaganda Poster Art Centre (Metro Line 10, Shanghai Library Station, 20 minute walk, Huashan Road facing Wukang Road, in the former French Concession area) is a museum located in Shanghai which exhibits posters from the Maoist period of communist China, especially from the Cultural Revolution period. The museum is located in the basement of an apartment building. The museum consists of only two rooms, but has a rich collection of rare posters. The owner of the museum, Mr. Yang Pei Ming, started collecting the posters as a hobby in 1995.

China Tobacco Museum (Metro Line 12, Jiangpu Gongyuan (Jiangpu Park) Station, Exit 3, or Line 4 or 12, Dalianlu Station, Exit 5) is located at the intersection of Changyang Road and Tongbei Road in Yangpu District, opposite to the Shanghai Cigarette Factory, which is 80 meters long, 25 meters wide and 30 meters tall.. Filled with propaganda that promotes smoking, the museum, the museum has five floors. with the first to third floor being the exhibition area and the fourth to fifth floor being the business area. The museum houses seven exhibition halls for 1) tobacco development, 2) tobacco industry, 3) tobacco agriculture, 4) tobacco management, 5) tobacco trade, 6) tobacco culture, and 7) smoking and smoking control hall. Cultural relics and documents are well kept in earth buildings of the Hakkas and stilt-houses of Dai People.

Shanghai Museum of Glass (Metro Line 1, Tonghe Xincun station) opened in 2011 and is widely praised for its design, but was primarily built so the owners could develop the land while meeting a legal requirement that says the land has continue being used an industry-related capacity. According to SmartShanghai: Housed in a renovated former factory, the beautifully displayed exhibits guide visitors through the history of glass, some of its lesser known applications and a stunning selection of glass art by international artists. A glass blowing demonstration area, regular temporary exhibitions, cafe and gift shop. There are interactive things for kids.

Shanghai Natural Wild-Insect Kingdom (Metro Line 2, Lujiazui Station) has a a whole floor full of turtles and a petting zoo with an owl, snakes, spiders, goats, and butterflies. Hald the fun are Chinglish signs. Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Metro Line 5 and 6, Daqiao Station, at Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park) contained information on the history of TCM as well as samples of different medicines. There’s a giant bronze statue illustrating the 580 acupuncture points on the human body and an herb garden. Museum of Oriental Musical Instruments (Fenyang Lu, near Huaihai Lu) is part of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in the an area of Xuhui with all a lot of music shops. The museum is split into four rooms, containing modern, ancient, minority, and foreign instruments.

Image Sources: 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4) Beifan.com; 5) developers, architecture firms, tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6) Mongabey.com; 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia. Expo Pictures, official Shanghai Expo website

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), UNESCO, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in May 2020

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