An American art collector's sanctuary in city outskirts
A 158-square-meter high-rise apartment in Malu Town, Jiading District, is not the typical neighborhood for an expatriate looking to relocate to Shanghai.
But then, Magalie Occean is also not the "typical" expat. She left Brooklyn, New York, in 2013 with the intention of traveling the world for two years before returning home.
But it was in Shanghai that she fell in love with the art scene, the clean Metro system and the food choices available in the city.
She moved to suburban Jiading in the summer of 2014.
"Living in downtown Shanghai reminds me of living in New York. I preferred to live in a genuine community and experience authentic Chinese culture," she said.
Occean's first home in Malu was a 67-square-meter rental apartment on the 20th floor. When she outgrew that space, she looked for a more spacious environment where she could comfortably host 20 or so people for social gatherings.
And her aversion to mosquito bites prompted her to resume her search for an apartment on a higher floor.
"I liked that I was the first person to move into this newly built apartment," she explained.
"One of the best things about living in Malu is that I always feel seen. In my previous apartment complex, I always saw an older person walking her dog around 6:30am. When I moved down the street, I kept running into this person, who always greeted me enthusiastically!
"Genuinely smiling from the soul is the common language that connects me, my neighbors and the local vendors. Thank goodness for this universal language, because learning Mandarin has been difficult for me," Occean said.
Her way of life revolves around contemplating the best way to fully express herself.
"That lifestyle is reflected in the interior design through color, texture, materials, patterns, juxtaposition and the free flow of energy."
Occean understands that in order to create a place she can call home, it must be personal.
"It is more important to me than adhering to a particular interior design style. As a result, I only bring home things that inspire me. My ultimate high comes from repurposing."
The wooden bench in her living room was originally a plant display in the Jiading flower market. It is now one of the highlights at her home. The original TV stand has been transformed into a low sideboard in the dining room.
Her expressive, outgoing personality is reflected in her furniture collection.
"I was drawn to the colors blue, green, yellow, red and pink interwoven into the fabric of a sofa. The wooden piece I use as a bookcase was originally a display case in a jewelry store in Tian Zi Fang," she said.
The red-and-black bar in the dining room, and the butterfly cabinet in the guestroom, were brought from Sonny Gao and her husband, Wei Jinzhong.
"Gratitude succinctly expresses my feelings about meeting this couple. They also customize furniture in their Jiading factory," Occean said.
The avid art collector wanted her home to showcase her large collections. Artworks of various forms cover every possible corner, from the floor to the wall.
"I left New York with a small art piece and some digital images by the self-taught artist Engels, as well as two playful pieces by late artist Joanne S. Wolff," she said.
The diverse art scene here quickly captivated Occean, and her home quickly became its own gallery.
"After I arrived in Shanghai, Jane of JE Gallery arranged for me to visit one of artist Luo Wei's studios. Luo was a gracious host, and I immediately fell in love with his art, particularly his mosquito series. Jane also introduced me to Lan Chong's and Leyi's psychedelic world."
Artist Khay Sigula deserves credit for not only introducing Occean to her own body of work, but also ensuring Occean's connection to Jai Thando Stephens and the SSTribe Collective.
"What I know about Anky's art is that I'm blown away by the vividness of the colors in her work, as well as the sensuous and strong ways she portrays women," Occean said.
"Gerald Arcelin II has an uncanny ability to capture beautiful details in his photographs. Sonny and Wei framed Gerald's flower gift in a large white frame. It is the first thing I see when I walk through my front door."
Another photographer whose work she admires is Nitin Dani.
"Having a Nitin Dani piece in the kitchen serves as a visual reminder to release my inner child," Occean explained.
"I've had to do a paradigm shift to appreciate acquiring an edition or print instead of the original. Tyla Taylor connected me to the Shenzhen-based graphic designer, Tanxuan. The number of details Tanxuan packs into his work is magnetizing."
After visiting John Zhang's ceramic studio in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province, known as "China's capital of porcelain," Occean has a newfound appreciation for ceramic art.
"The next medium I needed to include in the Shanghai collection was watercolor on paper. Serena and her husband's decision to open an art gallery made it easier to obtain some of Zhimi Lee's watercolors," she said.
Many of the artists Occean met in Shanghai have served as inspiration for her work. The bright colors and thought-provoking titles were among the features that drew her to artist Orlando Daga's work.
Mariano, owner of La Cava de Laoma Wine Club and Art Space, is unexpectedly responsible for her obsession with Mbelo Mantinga Herve's works.
Raffaella Gallo, ARTCAFFE's founder, introduced her to the works of Claudio Diatto and Max Cavallari. Andrea Martinez's and Jo Rankine's work came to her attention as a result of an exhibition at the MuseU&M.
"As an expat in Shanghai, I had to change my mindset in order to facilitate the transformation of my living space into my sanctuary. My house is a little piece of heaven on earth. It is where I recharge, re-examine, and consider how I can continue to serve."