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Art for the masses: Public art in Shanghai
Get out of the galleries and enjoy the weather with Shanghai’s best, weirdest and most educational public works of art
Editor's Note: Click on the gallery button above to see these images in gallery format.
Shanghai public art is not merely about decoration. Statues, murals, and monuments decode a city -- providing clues to its values, history and future trajectory. Having survived just about everything history can throw at it, Shanghai has become home to artistic relics of many different types. We won't go as far as saying that all Shanghai artworks are masterpieces, but they do offer insight into where our city has been, as well as where it's going.
Good or bad, here are some of the most memorable.
Shanghai public art: Moganshan Lu graffiti wall
For when your parents visit and you absolutely, positively must show them that you live in a 'real' city point your tour guide flag in the direction of Moganshan Lu. Purists might take umbrage with the fact that it’s a legal wall, taking a bit of the rebellion out of the artistic cause -- but it’s the most -- and the best -- graffiti you’ll find in Shanghai. Graffiti above by Popil.
Get there: Take Metro Line 3 to Zhongtan Lu station and then walk to Moganshan Lu. The graffiti wall includes part of Changhua Lu as it crosses Suzhou Creek; you can walk down the main stretch of Moganshan Lu from the intersection with Changhua Lu to see some of the best examples of graffiti in Shanghai.
Shanghai public art: Geometric sculptures
These geometric sculptures hidden in the east side of Mengqing Park do a great job of linking the natural geometry of the vertical reeds to the startling density of the surrounding apartment blocks. The Bauhaus would be proud.
Get there: Take Metro Line 3 to Zhongtan Lu. The park is located at 66 Yichang Lu, near Jiangning Lu (宜昌路66号, 近江宁路), a 10 minute walk from the station
Shanghai public art: Praying mantis
This praying mantis guards Shanghai Civilized Park at the intersection of Yan’an Xi Lu and Kaixuan Lu. Again, the sculpture tries to repair the divide between the man-made and the natural. The object in the insect’s hands could either be a leaf or a shattered window -- which one you see is your own business.
Get there: Take Metro Lines 3 or 4 Yanan Xi Lu, the park is located at Yan'an Lu, near Kaixuan Lu (延安西路，近凯旋路)
Shanghai public art: Red Town sculptures
The Red Town Sculpture park is one of the best places to see outdoor sculpture in the city. None of it is particularly amazing, but it’s fun, accessible, and conveniently located between the new Minsheng Art Museum and the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.
Get there: Take Metro Line 3 or 4 to Hongqiao Lu; Red Town 红坊国际文化艺术社区 570 Huaihai Xi Lu, near Kaixuan Lu, 淮海西路570号, 近凯旋路 +86 21 6281 7382
Shanghai public art: Marx & Engels
A spectre is haunting Shanghai -- the spectre of the gnarly Socialist Realist sculpture. Don’t worry, the nearby bumper car rink lessens the ideological blow. This is a classic sculpture surrounded by equally beautiful Fuxing Park.
Get there: Take Metro Line 1 to Huangpi Nan Lu station and walk to Fuxing Park (105 Yandang Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu 雁荡路105号, 复兴中路)
Shanghai public art: Cavalleria Eroica
Arman’s Cavalleria Eroica features the nouveau réaliste’s trademark reconstruction of traditional sculpture. But the pseudo-Futurist piece from 1987 seems fairly dated. That said, this is one of the better pieces dotting Nanjing Lu.
Get there: Take Metro Line 2 Nanjing Xi Lu station and walk to the 1200 block Nanjing Lu, outside the Shanghai Exhibition Center
Shanghai public art: Red commuters
All too often, public art takes on the role of a PR campaign, as is the case of this bright sculpture of people commuting harmoniously. We can only dream that this is what our commute looks like some day. Also note the lilting sadness caused by the vacant and anonymous figures.
Get there: Take Metro Line 2 Nanjing Xi Lu station and walk to Nanjing Xi Lu & Qinghai Lu
Shanghai public art: May 30 Monument
This monument commemorates the May 30 Movement, when in 1925 police fired into a crowd of Chinese people. The shooting resulted in a swell of support for the Communists. The monument itself has been there since the 1990s and is equal parts modernist elegance and Socialist Realist bravado.
Get there: Take Metro Line 1, 2 or 8 to Peoples Square station and enter Peoples Park at Nanjing Lu
Shanghai public art: Luxun’s tomb
Lu Xun’s tomb is one of Shanghai’s most peaceful locations. A brief walk from Hongkou Football stadium, the Magnolia flanked tomb is a beautiful and serene monument to Shanghai’s premier poet. A nice, shaded place for a sunny day.
Get there: Take Metro Line 8 or Line 3 to Hongkou Football Stadium and walk to Luxun Park (146 Dongjiangwan Lu, near Sichuan Bei Lu 东江湾路146号, 近四川北路)
Shanghai public art: City of forking paths
This list would be nothing without the 2010 Expo-caused onslaught of public art. The best of which is the City of Forking Paths, a collection of sculptures curated by Ami Barak. Don’t miss pieces by Wim Delvoye, Dan Graham, and Zhang Huan (shown here). The piece above is called “Hehe, Xiexie” showing two cuddly stainless steel pandas which represent, according to the artist, a
“harmonious society, harmonious world [and] harmonious Expo.” He forgot one thing: it's also a "harmonious" photo op.
Get there: Expo Boulevard