Best art galleries in Shanghai

Best art galleries in Shanghai

The best locations to experience the city's fast-expanding art scene

For a city of Shanghai’s size, cultural history, and financial clout, its art scene is relatively small and uneven.

But since the industry is still developing, there is more opportunity and flexibility here than in any other similar environment.

The following is a harshly edited list of Shanghai’s best galleries. So go visit and at least pretend to look around before your Feiyues squeak towards the Great Wall Wine and cherry tomatoes table. 

James Cohan Gallery Shanghai

The front view of James Cohan Gallery ShanghaiThe gate of James Cohan Gallery Shanghai. All art lovers are greeted with a banner hailing "Long live Chairman Mao" before stepping forward to purchase and perceive art.


Testifying to Shanghai’s opulent past, the most beautiful gallery in town is housed in a colonial villa in the former French Concession.

As a sister gallery of the New York branch, James Cohan Shanghai has a strong international program, showing contemporary legends, such as Louise Bourgeois, Alex Katz, Richard Long, and Roxy Paine.

In China, however, the multi-national gallery has been more interested in the younger generation -- artists like Cheng Ran, Guo Hongwei, and Hu Xiaoyuan.

Arthur Solway, director of James Cohan Shanghai, quotes famed Swiss curator Harald Szeemann’s wish that exhibitions move away from both market forces and the Victorian urge to classify culture; instead they meet somewhere in the middle, as "poems in space."

While it’s unclear if this is taking place in most of the art world, it certainly is at James Cohan Gallery Shanghai.

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James Cohan Gallery Shanghai, 1/F, 1 Lane 170, Yueyang Lu, near Yongjia Lu 岳阳路170号1号楼1楼, 近永嘉路, +86 21 5466 0825, Tuesday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday: noon-6 p.m.; Monday by appointment, www.jamescohan.com

OV Gallery

Exhibition at OV galleryOV Gallery is the right place to be if you're looking for outspoken, bold and cutting-edge art.



Under the direction of former magazine editor Rebecca Catching, Oriental Vista (OV) Gallery has earned respect of almost every art aficionado in town by putting on a series of conceptually strong yet accessible group shows.

Catching says that OV “tries to bring in non-art circle people by choosing provocative themes, which try to address issues in contemporary society.”

The space hosted a series of exhibitions that dealt very critically with current trends in 2010. For example, "Makeover" responded to Shanghai’s drastic gentrification and "Re-Visioning History" was an excellent critique of official CCP view of history.

This latter also got them shut down by the local culture bureau, which is more than enough reason to support.

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OV Gallery, Room 207, Building 4, 50 Moganshan Lu, near Nan Suzhouhe Lu 莫干山路50号4号楼207室, 近南苏州河路, +86 139 1637 3474, Tuesday-Sunday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., www.ovgallery.com

Directions: From the entrance of the M50 compound, take the first door of the first building on the left. Immediately take the first set of stairs to the second floor and turn left down the first corridor, then left again. 

Art Labor 2.0

Visitors to Art Labor 2.0Even if you are buried by DJs and bartenders, we assure you this is a gallery.

Canadian Martin Kemble’s gallery has evolved over the past five years to be one of the most spectacular places in town. His openings have become notorious for the DJs, heavy-pouring bartenders, and crowds of the hip and beautiful -- at least some of whom come to look at the art. 

And the art is worth looking at.

Art Labor represents talented young Chinese artists Ying Yefu and Lu Yang, both of whom turn heads with their irreverent and biting pieces. Also on the roster are Lu Xinjian, You Si, and more.

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Art Labor 2.0, Room 411, Building 4, 570 Yongjia Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu 永嘉路570号4号411室, 近陕西南路, +86 21 3460 5331, Tuesday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday: noon-6 p.m., www.artlaborgallery.com

m97 Gallery

Inside view of m97 GalleryGet overwhelmed in the photographic world at m97.


Showing big name photographers from all over the world, m97 Gallery captures the direction that photography has taken over the past 30 years.

The light-filled gallery shows huge photos in the "tableaux" form, defined by French critic Jean-Francois Chevrier as works “designed and produced for the wall, summoning a confrontational experience on the part of the spectator …”

From Nadav Kander’s elegy for the Yangtze River Valley to Michael Wolf’s cityscapes, m97 is the place to be overwhelmed by the photographic world. They’ve also put on historic exhibitions of Chinese photographers, Han Lei and Wang Ningde.

“On one hand we're trying to reflect our contemporary surroundings and predicament on any given level, " director Steven Harris comments on this role of the gallery, "on another, we're trying not to be so myopic that we lose sight of the longer-term perspective of what's valuable, relevant, irreplaceable, unforgettable.”

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m97 Gallery, 2/F, 97 Moganshan Lu, near Nan Suzhouhe Lu 莫干山路97号二楼, 近南苏州河路, +86 21 6266 1597, Tuesday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., www.m97gallery.com

Beaugeste Gallery

Show at Beaugeste GalleryBeaugeste Gallery: a mecca for Shanghai retro shutterbugs.
At the other end of the photographic spectrum is Beaugeste Gallery. Decidedly out of the way in a fifth floor walk-up in Tianzifang, it is less a gallery than a salon, carefully tended to by photography aficionado Jean Loh.

The work he shows often seems out of time, channeling masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Marc Riboud instead of more recent trends.

Loh specializes in Chinese documentary and humanistic photography, and makes education a priority before collecting.

“Lu Guang (winner of W. Eugene Smith Grant) for his documentary of China's pollution, Lu Yuanmin for his humanistic view of Shanghai, Wang Fuchun for his incredible 8x10 large format documentary of the 'North East Men,' and of course Yan Changjiang, an under-valued talented photographer and author, for his Papermen series, which he still pursues,” recommends the French-Shanghainese.

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Beaugeste Gallery, Room 519, Building 5, Lane 210 Taikang Lu, near Ruijin Er Lu 泰康路210弄5号楼519室 , 近瑞金二路, +86 21 6446 9012, Monday-Friday by appointment; Saturday-Sunday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., www.beaugeste-gallery.com

Shanghai Gallery of Art

Shanghai Gallery of ArtShanghai Gallery of Art is the best spot to hit on the Bund.

Shanghai Gallery of Art (SGA) certainly has the best location in Shanghai. Overlooking the Bund is the 1,100-square-meter space, which is often mistaken for a private museum. As well as it should be. 

Since 2004, SGA has shown art heavyweights such as Zhang Xiaogang and Xu Bing, who made a giant tiger skin rug out of 660,000 cigarettes rested on end for the 2004 exhibit "Tobacco Project: Shanghai."

Under the direction of American curator Mathieu Borysevicz, who splits his time between Shanghai and New York Citythe bund art institution has taken a more international path.

The ongoing show "dAfT" showcases examples of modern-day banality. The exhibition features iconic (and filthy) artist Paul McCarthy and filmmaker Ryan Trecartin, whose video series "Any Ever" was hailed by Roberta Smith as a “game changer” and Peter Schjeldahl as the most important artist since Jeff Koons.

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Shanghai Gallery of Art, 3/F, Three on the Bund, 17 Guangdong Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu 广东路17号外滩三号3楼, 近中山东一路, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.(daily), +86 21 6321 5757, www.shanghaigalleryofart.com

ShanghART

ShanghARTYou are looking at the best art China has to offer.

Since its opening in 1996, ShanghART has been firmly established as one of the best galleries in Shanghai, and one of the most important destinations worldwide for Chinese art.

Lorenz Helbling, the Swiss founder of the gallery, has some of the best taste in the game. How else to account for his early support of today’s Chinese art stars: Xu Zhen, Zhou Tiehai, Zeng Fangzhi, Yang Fudong, et al.

In 2000, ShanghART was the first gallery in all of China to be invited to Art Basel, the international art show.

In addition to historical importance, ShanghART is a physical landmark in Shanghai. The Gallery and its affiliated H-Space are two requisite stops in M50, and their new complex in Taopu is helping to develop what might be the city’s next art district. 

ShanghART (Main), Building 16, 50 Moganshan Lu, near Nan Suzhouhe Lu 莫干山路50号16号楼, 近南苏州河路, +86 21 6359 3923, + 86 21 6276 2818, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.(daily), www.shanghartgallery.com

ShanghART H-Space, Building 18, 50 Moganshan Lu, near Nan Suzhouhe Lu 莫干山路50号18号楼, 近南苏州河路, +86 21 6276 2818, 1 p.m.-6 p.m.(daily)

ShanghART Taopu, Building 8, 18 Wuwei Lu, near Qilianshan Lu 武威路18号8号楼, 近祁连山路, +86 21 3632 2097, +86 21 6359 3923, Tuesday-Sunday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.. Take Metro Line 11 to Qilianshan Lu station, then walk 10 minutes on Qilianshan Lu to Wuwei Dong Lu, then turn right.

For group visits, please contact +86 21 6359 3923 or email info@shanghartgallery.com.

Hunter Braithwaite is a writer and editor based in Miami. Before that he lived in Shanghai. He edits the Miami Rail and blogs at www.thereisnothere.org.

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