The Beijing Shanghai Gao Tie

October 22, 2013

The Gao Tie (Gao Tee-yeh) is the Chinese High Speed Rail. The trains are sleek, new, clean, comfortable, and fast. Beijing to Shanghai is about a 5 hour trip as opposed to 9-15 hours on a regular train or who knows how long on an airplane. Flying or taking this deluxe train can be about the same price but you can count on the train being on time. Flying domestically in China has become a real problem. Almost every flight I have taken for as long as I can remember has been delayed for some reason or another. They often say the weather is bad at the destination but I think the country just cannot handle the incredible amount of air traffic. It grows and grows as Chinese become more affluent and mobile and as more and more foreigners travel here for tourism and business. Whatever, the trains, especially the new Gao Tie, are a great and reliable way to travel, if you can get a seat, and you get to see the landscape, people eating and drinking and playing with their children all the way…

A Shanghai gallery invited me to attend their grand opening and dinner (and KTV Karaoke afterwards) and offered me a free hotel room. When I arrived at the hotel, I was informed that “foreigners” were not allowed to stay there. I told them I was ABC (American Born Chinese) but they didn’t get it. I wasn’t really surprised as I have been to these types of hotels before. I do not know the reason for this, but it is a government regulation. So I had to move on to another hotel option and pay for it myself.

In recent years the gallery scene in Shanghai seemed to be declining and not so interesting. Although studios and galleries have been opening in Taopu, on the outskirts of Shanghai, China’s second art city, the gallery scene in the center was really lacking in vitality. But things are changing again, as things do in China. Shanghart, one of the oldest, most important, and respected galleries in China has recently renovated its second gallery space in M-50, the main gallery district in Shanghai. They represent Sun Xun who had a Hammer Project in 2008. Also in M-50 Aike Dellarco has beautifully renovated its second gallery space. They have been showing some very good emerging artists. And now, Antenna Space, a new gallery has arrived and just opened with a great group show of emerging and younger established artists. The gallery is gorgeous with the old terrazzo floors still in tact and an outdoor balcony overlooking the Suzhou Creek. M-50 is looking more exciting again.

Also new in Shanghai but in a different area is Bank, Mathieu Borysevicz’s new non-non-profit space on the second floor of a still grand but dilapidated and abandoned Shanghai bank building near the Bund. (Oftentimes there is no clear-cut definition to the identities of art institutions or careers in China. A so-called non-profit in China can’t operate as they do in the west. There is no philanthropy and no government support so people must adapt a sort of ‘blend’ to survive). Mathieu wrote the essay for Sun Xun’s past Hammer Project. His second show at Bank, “Paint(erly)” is ambitious, thought provoking, rich, and mixes western and Chinese artists, some are older influential masters and others are still emerging.

The Rockbund Museum, Pearl Lam, Shanghai Gallery of Art, and the Swatch artist residency at the Peace Hotel are spread out along the Bund overlooking Pudong and Shanghai’s ever changing and futuristic skyline. Leo Xu Projects and James Cohan are not far away in the French Concession. Shanghai and these and other galleries and museums are a destination and worth the trip. --James Elaine