Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shanghai as a Piece of Art




By Emma Krasov

Cosmopolitan, tolerant, free-spirited, indulgent, and most importantly open to new ideas, concepts, and people – throughout its history the city of Shanghai unflinchingly accepted Westerners – from merchants to refugees, from missionaries to artists, and absorbed their creeds and their lifestyles never losing its distinct identity. Resilient to historical surges and collapses, bloodsheds of war and Cultural Revolution, it survived and endured, and it stands today as a vision of the future – a gigantic bustling metropolis, full of life and creative movement. Opened today at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the ambitious Shanghai exhibition follows the development of the city as it was depicted in art in a span of 160 years, from “Beginnings” (1850-1911) to “High Times” (1912-1949) to “Revolution” (1920-1976) to “Shanghai Today” (1980-present). It’s a fascinating display of silver, lithographs, posters, oil paintings, fashion and furniture, and contemporary neon/sound and video installations all of which together are a testament to a strong artistic current that pulsates through the veins of the city in the year when Shanghai is going to host the World Expo “Better City, Better Life.” With this 130-artwork show on display, life is definitely better in San Francisco, a sister-city of Shanghai. The Museum initiated a city-wide Shanghai Celebration, a year-long festival that includes concerts, performances, exhibitions, films, and talks (shanghaicelebration.com). Shanghai exhibition is on view February 12 – September 5 at Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., SF. Call 415-581-3500 or visit asianart.org.
Images: courtesy Asian Art Museum. 1. Nanjing Road – From Series of Views of Shanghai, after 1937. By Zhao Weimin (dates unknown). Chromolithograph on paper. Collection of the Shanghai History Museum. 2. It Often Begins with a Smile, 1930s. By Jin Meisheng (19021989). Chromolithograph on paper. Collection of the Shanghai History Museum. 3. Mao Zedong, 1968. By Yu Yunjie (Chinese, 19171992). Oil on canvas. Collection of the Shanghai Art Museum.