West Bund becoming the face of contemporary art

The West Bund art scene is already taking shape with some of the top museums, theaters and galleries betting on the future.  
Ti Gong

Situated in the southeast part of Xuhui District, the West Bund area along the Huangpu River stretches 9.4 square kilometers.

Ti Gong

The end is the beginning.

Shortly after the close of the 4th West Bund Art & Design in mid-November, Zhou Tiehai and his team got together to work for next year’s edition.

This year's exposition impressed many participants including art dealers, gallery owners, collectors and artists from home and abroad. Some of them even compared the works to those at Art Bassel.

“We are not that well-known like Art Bassel,” says Zhou, founder of West Bund Art & Design. “Ours is smaller, focusing on the ‘best of the best’.”

The fair featured some of the top galleries from China and overseas, including Hauser & Wirth, Malingue Gallery and Ota Fine Arts, and the artworks they brought here were almost close to “museum collection.”

“Many galleries have already called us asking whether we will have space for them next year,” Zhou says.

The 5th West Bund Art & Design will open on November 7 in 2018.

“There is too much work to do ... we can hardly have a break,” Zhou says. “But I am happy to see that the local contemporary art scene has revived.”

Modeled on Paris’ Left Bank and London’s South Bank, Shanghai’s West Bund area has been developed into a world-class waterfront center for culture, arts and design.

Situated in the southeast part of Xuhui District, the area along the Huangpu River stretches 9.4 square kilometers and used to be the cradle of many leading national industries, such as Shanghai Cement Plant, and a hub of modern transportation.

“When I was invited to open an international art fair there (four years ago), I was reluctant for a while,” says Zhou. “There was no ‘art atmosphere’ here.”

The local contemporary art scene also stagnated back then. The closure of ShContemporary international art fair frustrated lots of industry leaders and art lovers.

Ti Gong

The West Bund Art & Design features some of the top galleries from China and overseas.

Zhou decided to act. He bet on West Bund — and it paid off. The unique geographic location, plus the post-modern industrial traces, and the vast space gave much possibility of the area.

“Among the many plans for the development of West Bund, we finally chose the ‘Corniche’ concept proposed by the British PDR company,” says Chen Anda, head of the industry development department at Shanghai West Bund Development Group Co Ltd.

Chen says Corniche, as a French word, stands for comfortable and open waterfront avenue. People can enjoy a promenade or drive slowly and appreciate the beauty along the river.

“In Corniche neighborhood, there are famous cultural venues and commercial and residential buildings that ensure a relaxed and quality life,” Chen says.

For him, Corniche of West Bund can be a good example for other cultural projects in Shanghai. “And support from the government really helped to turn West Bund into a cultural hub of an international scale,” he says.

Chen says by 2020 there will also be theaters and museums. “It will be the biggest art zone in Asia.”

Two private museums, the Long Museum West Bund and Yuz Museum, have already become landmarks in the area.

Long Museum is the second museum of billionaire collector Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei. Born in 1963 into an ordinary working-class family in Shanghai, Liu left school at the age of 14 to help his mother in her business.

The tycoon is one of the biggest collectors of ancient and contemporary Chinese art. His Long Museum West Bund, one of the largest private museums in China, focuses on traditional Chinese masterpieces and contemporary art, as well as public art education.

Yuz, derived from Yu Deyao, the Chinese name of Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur and collector Budi Tek, was designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, who’s also the man behind the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London which won the Marcus Prize for Architecture in 2013.

Ti Gong

The Long Museum West Bund is one of China's biggest private museums.

Besides these two major ones, Star Museum is now under construction.

He Juxing, founder of Star Museum, is also the director of Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum. Star Museum aims to provide a platform for the creation of contemporary art.

“If you come to West Bund, you must visit West Bund Culture and Art Pilot Zone,” says Chen Anda with the Shanghai West Bund Development Group Co Ltd.

With an area of 7,375 square meters, the pilot zone includes 14 buildings that house top galleries, artist studios and architectural firms, such as ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai Center of Photography and Qiao Space.

Also on the list of future cultural venues are plans for Tank ShanghArtPark, Waterfront Theater and Shanghai Dream Center.

Tank ShanghiArtPark, an oil tank renovation project, will be transformed by designers into a titanic arc resembling the Pantheon in Rome. Combining a diversified exhibition space, green space, a garden, a bookstore and an educational center, the park will create an art space for the public in close proximity with nature.

One of the largest cultural investment projects in China, Shanghai Dream Center will be ready by 2019. It is a collaboration between Hong Kong Lan Kwai Fong Group, DreamWorks Animation and Shanghai China Media Capital. The center will be an integrated cultural and lifestyle landmark featuring world-class entertainment, international performing arts, refined restaurants and bars, fashion retail and creative media.

“We are working almost 24 hours a day, because this is the speed of West Bund,” says Chen. “Apart from culture and art, there will be more special elements fused into West Bund such as artificial intelligence. Each year, West Bund will make a huge difference.”

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