With a population of more than 14 million and a rapidly developing urban scape, Shanghai offers a mind blowing array of galleries and museums. You’d need months, if not years, to fully experience them all. So, to save you some time, here’s a handpicked selection of the best.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the Shanghai Museum. The chances are you’ve never seen such an enormous collection of artefacts. But to take them all in, in just one go, is no easy feat. The good news is that entry is free, so you can opt to visit for just a handful of hours and focus on one or two sections and/or a particular number of items of interest. The collection is divided into several galleries, such as ancient bronze, ancient jade, ancient sculpture and minorities art. The museum is conveniently located at 201 People’s Avenue – right near 5 star hotels in Shanghai.
In 1996, with just one section of the Portman Ritz Carlton Hotel as its first home, ShanghART Gallery, the city’s first ever contemporary gallery, was established. These days, it is undoubtedly one of the finest art institutions in Shanghai. At its current address – Building 16, 50 Moganshan Road, Putuo District – it fills two spaces. The first, dubbed the ‘Main Space’, is an enormous converted warehouse offering the scope and versatility for a range of exhibitions; the second, known as ‘H-Space’, is devoted to large-scale pieces. What’s more, ShanghART boasts a second public gallery in the western section of the city, as well as spaces in both Beijing and Singapore.
Shanghai History Museum
It’s no secret that history museums don’t always present their subject in the most inspiring of lights. Dull copy writing, poorly designed signs and rows and rows of objects without much context are too often the norm. But you can breathe a sigh of relief: that certainly isn’t the case at the Shanghai History Museum. Instead, the past is transformed into a fun, surprising and exciting adventure. Think waxwork figures, artefacts arranged into narratives and interactive exhibitions. Even children absolutely love it. Located in the basement of the Oriental Pearl Tower, the museum travels a long way through time – back to when Shanghai was a relatively quiet port town.
Rockbund Art Museum
In recent years, much attention (and an abundance of resources) have been given to redeveloping the northern end of the Bund Boulevard. The Rockbund Art Museum, which opened in 2010, is a significant part of this. Housed in a gorgeous art deco building which originally belonged to the Royal Asiatic Society, it consists of five storeys seamlessly joined via a stunning central atrium. An incredible flow of natural light gives the entire building an uplifting, airy feel. Many of China’s most high-profile artists have exhibited at the Rockbund Art Museum and there’s an emphasis on presenting art in cutting-edge, unexpected ways, as well as promoting discussion and debate. You’ll find it at 20 Huqiu Road, in the Huangpu District.
Urban Planning Exhibition Hall
The Urban Planning Exhibition Hall is the perfect addition to the Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai History Museum. While the latter two focus on the city’s more distant history, the former is concerned with what’s been happening over the past twenty years. During that time, Shanghai has been racing towards modernisation at an awe-inspiring rate and the Hall demonstrates just how quickly change has occurred. The exhibition begins with images and maps of Shanghai as it looked before industrialisation and finishes up with projections for 2020. There’s even a 3D virtual tour.