Asian Art Museum focuses attention on Shanghai

February 15, 2010 8:16:25 PM PST
San Francisco's sister city, Shanghai, is the focus of a new exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. It traces 150 years of artistry in what curators call China's most dynamic city.

Shanghai is a complex, ever changing city and is a window to China. It has gone from an artistic beginning, more than 150 years ago, to a skyscraper-filled sophisticated city.

"Shanghai is the gateway for China, to the rest of the world," Museum Director Jay Xu said.

Xu grew up in Shanghai, so this new exhibit is personal.

"The show is aimed to give people the sense of diversity, the richness, the issues, advantages and challenges of Shanghai," says Xu.

It is meant as a way to define a city. The exhibition begins around 1850, Shanghai was filled with vast wealth and vast power and it attracted creative people.

"Artists from everywhere fled to Shanghai; wealthy patrons of the arts, patrons of arts from everywhere fled to Shanghai," senior curator Michael Knight said.

There are works that look at the emerging role of women in the society. Shanghai has always been at the epicenter of art and political and dramatic change.

"A place where people thought about issues and developed whey they saw as solutions to issues," Knight said.

The first communist party meeting was in Shanghai. Then came the revolution. There is one sculpture that reflects the past and the future, its old street bricks, silicone forms, and solar energy.

There is no place that reflects the cultural and economic changes in China like Shanghai. It is a cosmopolitan international city.

"It's like New York. It has the trade, it has the values, the money, the art," Knight said.

There is an undeniable energy and spirit here.

"One of the most dynamic, certainly fastest changing city on the face of the earth with a visual culture to illustrate the transformation of this major center," Xu said.

Shanghai will host a world expo later this year. The art exhibit is in San Francisco until September.