Shànghǎi may be known for its glitz and glamour, but it's got an edgy subculture too. The industrial M50 art complex is one prime example, where galleries have set up in disused factories and cotton mills, utilising the vast space to showcase contemporary Chinese emerging and established artists.
Chinese contemporary art has been gaining recognition in the international field over the past decade, and collectors around the globe are paying top whack for the works of top Chinese artists. Although the artists who originally established the M50 enclave are long gone, it’s worth putting aside a half-day to poke around the galleries here. There are a lot of mass-produced commercial prints (especially in buildings 3 and 4), but there are also some challenging, innovative galleries if you’re persistent and willing to explore. Most galleries are open from 10am to 6pm; some close on Monday.
The most established galleries here include ShanghART with a big, dramatic space showcasing the work of some of the 40 artists it represents. The forward-thinking, provocative and downright entertaining island6 focuses on the collaborative works of Liu Dao, an art collective of painters, writers and multimedia artists who create edgy pieces in its studio on-site; it has a smaller gallery on the 1st floor of Building Seven. Other notable galleries include Sanzi's Sanzi Art and Yu Nancheng's Fish Studio – both local artists of international repute who marry traditional styles with a contemporary twist. For cutting-edge avant-garde works try Antenna Space or Chronus Art Center. Across the road is the Gallery, an art collective featuring innovative Chinese contemporary art and photography. For a hands-on experience, visit DN Club with its classes using vintage SLRs and a dark room for developing prints.
- Antenna Space
- Moganshan Rd street art
- En route to the M50 galleries along dusty, gritty Moganshan Rd, you'll pass by some of Shànghǎi's best street art, with graffiti-splashed and mural-decorated walls.
- Avoid visiting on a Monday when 90% of the galleries are closed.
Take a Break
Getting There & Away
Metro Line 3, 4 to Zhongtan Rd, exit 5, or Line 1, 3, 4 to Shanghai Railway Station, exit 3
Edgy art hub in a former cotton mill.
Shànghǎi Natural History Museum & Jìng’ān Sculpture Park
Perhaps not quite on the same scale as the Smithsonian, Shànghǎi's new sleek space would nevertheless be a fitting choice for a Night at the Museum movie. As comprehensive as it is entertaining and informative, the museum is packed with displays of taxidermied animals, dinosaurs and cool interactive features. Its architecture is also a highlight with a striking design that is beautifully integrated in its art-filled Jìng’ān Sculpture Park setting.
Exploring the Natural History Museum
Spread over five levels, the museum's main focus is the animal kingdom and prehistoric world, while taking in the Big Bang, evolution and geology along the way. Life-size creatures are central throughout, with taxidermied (mostly realistic) animals, birds and reptiles, and models of soaring marine animals that hang spectacularly from the top floor. The African Savannah exhibit on the basement floor is stunning, capturing all the drama of life on the plains with an epic full-wall animation feature screening on the hour. There are also enclosures with live reptiles, spiders and scorpions, and a butterfly house among other hands-on exhibits.
Dinosaur fossils are well represented (including the indigenous Yunnanese 'Lufeng lizard') and are interspersed with impressive life-like mechanical dinosaurs that move and roar.
Natural History Museum's Architecture
The Natural History Museum's building itself is a masterful piece of architecture inside and out. The museum's exterior spirals like a nautilus shell topped by a curved lawn embankment, Chinese-inspired water garden and vertical garden wall. Within, the focal point is the 30m-high glass atrium, with a conical molecular-shaped glass 'cell wall' that floods the building with natural light. Symbolic of the living organisms within, its transparent core holds a tranquil courtyard garden with a pond full of plants, trickling waterfalls and rocky outcrops.
Jìng’ān Sculpture Park
Arguably as much an attraction as the Natural History Museum itself are the gardens surrounding it, dotted with delightful public sculptures. The mix of permanent and temporary pieces by Chinese and international artists are all thoughtfully scattered throughout. Expect surreal, thought-provoking pieces, dabbled with humour. In April, the blossoming cherry trees are an attractive sight.
- African Savannah exhibit
- Open-air sculpture
- Intricacies of the museum's architecture
- The museum is much bigger than it looks, so plan to spend half a day here to see it properly.
- To gain entry into the 4D Theatre on the Big Bang you'll need to book online in advance.
Take A Break
You can get touristy fare from the restaurant complex here, which has pizza, ice cream for kids and a bar for adults. Otherwise it's a 10-minute walk to People Square's Huanghe Rd Food St. Alternatively pack a picnic for the park.
Getting There & Away
Metro Lines 2, 12, 13 to West Nanjng Rd
A dose of dinosaurs and natural history set in a sculptural park.