ShanghART gallery fetes 20 years, inaugurating new West Bund space

Art exhibition space with white walls and spaced out artwork displayed on the walls. In the foreground of the picture is a large scuplture featuring 3 naked people in a mix of styles.
Shanghai gallery ShanghART has inaugurated its new West Bund space, designed by Archi-Union Architects, with a group exhibition
(Image credit: TBC)

Raclette in Shanghai? The idea of eating the Swiss favourite consisting of melted cheese, potatoes, cornichons and pearl onions in China’s second-most populous city might be a bit strange, but considering it was served at the 20th anniversary party of ShanghART — founded in 1996 by Swiss dealer Lorenz Helbling — it made perfect sense. Back in 1996 — the same year Wallpaper* launched its first issue — Shanghai had yet to become the global city it has since transformed into. 'Back in 1996, we started simply with a desk and some paintings hanging on fish wires on the walls of a hotel lobby,' recalls Helbling.

Painting in tones of red, black and blue showing two silhouttes in black holding aloft their fire torches over a stone firepit.

’Fire Thief’, by Zhao Yang, 2016

(Image credit: TBC)

To celebrate its 20th birthday, ShanghART inaugurated a new space in Shanghai cultural enclave the West Bund, the Chinese government-funded answer to London’s Mayfair or New York’s Chelsea districts. The new building, completed by Shanghai-based architecture firm Archi-Union Architects, was inspired by the rows of stacked shipping containers that once lined the industrial piers of the Huangpu River, paying tribute to the West Bund’s industrial heritage. Two floors of exhibition space make up most of the structure, along with a library, an artists’ archive, multi-functional rooms and a rooftop terrace.

'The [new gallery] seeks to combine empty space with elements of the natural world, which promotes the communication between art, light, and visitors in a natural environment,' says Alex Han, vice-general manager and head of concept design at Archi-Union. 'We were also interested in the use of negative space and emptiness, we wanted to create an open-ended style and forms that embrace the white space and the future.'

Art exhibition space with white walls. 2 large pieces of art face each other on opposing walls, and a smaller piece of artwork hangs on the end wall.

From left, ’Assumption - Veins of a Lowest Place on Earth’, by Huang Kui, 2015-2016; ’The Darkness Period History’, by Sun Xun; ’If You Have a Parrot, What Words Would You Teach Him (Her)?’, by Yang Zhengzhong, 2001; and ’Fire Thief’, by Zhao Yang

(Image credit: TBC)

The inaugural exhibition in the space, 'Holzwege',  pays homage to Martin Heidegger’s concept of separate paths within the same forest and features work by both established and emerging Chinese artists, including a 1987 painting of two laughing faces by Geng Jianyi, and Yang Zhenzhong’s 2001 conceptual piece If You Have a Parrot, What Words Would You Teach Him (Her)?. (An actual parrot was involved, but it said nothing.)

Going from one desk and paintings hanging on fish wire in a hotel lobby to a multi-level gallery space in the city’s gallery district demonstrates ShanghART’s growth. 'Both the art scene in Shanghai and the gallery itself have evolved immensely in the past 20 years,' Hebling says.

Art exhibition space. Displayed on one wall is a large piece of artwork with 2 identical images of a bald-headed man screaming or shouting. Another wall displays an abstract piece of art of in black and white.

From left, The Second State, by Geng Jianyi, 1987; Gelber Held (Heros), by Markus Lüpertz, 2013; and Appearance of Crosses 2016-2, by Ding Yi, 2016

(Image credit: TBC)

Gelber Held (Heros), by Markus Lüpertz, 2013

Gelber Held (Heros), by Markus Lüpertz, 2013

(Image credit: TBC)

Art exhibition space with white walls with a central rectangular pod, displaying artwork on the walls of varying sizes.

If You Have a Parrot, What Words Would You Teach Him (Her)?, by Yang Zhengzhong, 2001; and Fire Thief, by Zhao Yang; Circumspection-2400mm-01, by Zhang Qing, 2016; Treant, by Liang Yue, 2016; Trying to Remember a Tree, by Robert Zhao Renhui, 2016; and Ich bring’s uns wieder, by Jörg Immendorff, 1981

(Image credit: TBC)

Art exhibition space with white walls. On the far wall, a long piece of artwork displays 5 portrait images in different shades of blue and grey. blue.

5 Women, by Yu Youhan, 2001; and Soilred and Bottlegreen, by Zhang Enli, 2016

(Image credit: TBC)

Abstract art made up of a series of dots in blue, black and yellow. The central image is a silhouette of a person holding a miniature human skeleton in his hand.

Jeder Mensch ist ein Maler, by Jörg Immendorff, 2005

(Image credit: TBC)

Art exhibition space with various artwork displayed on walls. One large piece of artwork stands on the floor - a sun-like image in shades of yellow and pink

Maximized Uniqueness 14, by Liu Yue, 2015-2016; Jeder Mensch ist ein Maler, by Jörg Immendorff, 2005; Rhythm, by Shao Yi, 2016; and Die Toilette (Märkisch), by Markus Lüpertz, 2014

(Image credit: TBC)

Pencil crayon artwork in shades of brown of a long straight road heading into the distance with a wide-angle perspective and several dips in the road

Way 2, by Han Feng, 2016

(Image credit: TBC)

Art exhibition space with dark blue walls which provide a sharp contrast to the silvery metal artwork that is displayed in the space.

Installation view of A Man Who Doesn’t Know Better, by Xi Guo and Jianling Zhang, 2016

(Image credit: TBC)


’Holzwege’ is on view until 15 February 2017. For more information, visit the ShanghART website


No.2555-10 Longteng Avenue
Xuhui District
Shanghai 200232


Ann Binlot is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer who covers art, fashion, design, architecture, food, and travel for publications like Wallpaper*, the Wall Street Journal, and Monocle. She is also editor-at-large at Document Journal and Family Style magazines.