Mainland China's most glamorous city lagged well behind Beijing during China's contemporary art boom in the 1990s and 2000s. Over the past decade, however, Shanghai has taken the lead, thanks in large part to the arrival of world-class museums from one end of the city to the other along the Huangpu River.
Each of Shanghai's museums has its own unique architecture adapted from a past life. There's the beautiful Rockbund Art Museum (RAM), for instance, housed in the former Royal Asiatic Society building, which was established in 1932. And then there's the public Power Station of Art, once a working power station (a fact given away by its name and towering chimney) and now home to the Shanghai Biennale.
Following the barges further upstream brings visitors to three museums established by private collectors: Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian's Long Museum, identified by the huge coal hoppers outside; Chinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek's Yuz Museum, housed in former aircraft hangars and specialising in jaw-dropping kinetic and large-scale pieces; and karaoke magnate Qiao Zhibing's newly established Tank Shanghai, located in repurposed fuel silos.
On the Bund proper, where early-20th-century architecture—including RAM's building—lends some old-world charm, are blue chip galleries such as Lisson Gallery, Perrotin, and Pearl Lam Galleries. The city's other leading commercial galleries, including ShanghART, MadeIn Gallery, AIKE, Edouard Malingue Gallery, and Arario Gallery are now clustered together in the West Bund.
The West Bund is also where mainland China's leading art fair, West Bund Art & Design, takes place each November. ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair and PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai are the city's other big fairs, both of which have helped cultivate an ambitious new generation of Chinese collectors at events that take place in the palatial Shanghai Exhibition Centre.
Among other art spaces worth seeking out are chi K11 art museum, a generously sized contemporary art space beneath art patron Adrian Cheng's K11 shopping mall; OCAT, which specialises in video and new media art in a space on Suzhou Creek; and four local galleries that continue to punch above their weight: M97, Art Labor, BANK Gallery, and am art space, all of which are located in Jing'an.