Above SeaContemporary art, urban culture, and the fashioning of global Shanghai

Above SeaContemporary art, urban culture, and the fashioning of global Shanghai

Jenny Lin

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9781526132604

Publisher: Manchester University Press


Shanghai, long known as mainland China’s most cosmopolitan metropolis, has recently re-emerged as a global capital. Above sea: Contemporary art, urban culture, and the fashioning of global Shanghai offers the first in-depth examination of turn of the twenty-first century Shanghai-based art and design – from state-sponsored exhibitions to fashionable cultural complexes to cutting edge films and installations. This book offers a counter-touristic view of one of the world’s fastest developing megacities that penetrates the contradictions and buried layers of specific locales and artifacts of visual culture. Informed by years of in-situ research including interviews with artists and designers, the book looks beyond contemporary art’s global hype to reveal persistent socio-political tensions accompanying Shanghai’s explosive transitions from semi-colonial capitalism to Maoist socialism to Communist Party-sponsored capitalism. Analyses of exemplary design projects such as Xintiandi and Shanghai Tang, and artworks by Liu Jianhua, Yang Fudong, Gu Wenda and more reveal how Shanghai’s global aesthetics construct glamorizing artifices that mask historically-rooted cross-cultural conflicts between vying notions of foreign-influenced modernity versus anti-colonialist nationalism, and the city’s repressed socialist past versus consumerist present. The book focuses on Shanghai-based art and design from the 1990s-2000s, the decades of the city’s most rapid post-socialist development, while also attending to pivotal Republican and Mao Era examples. Challenging the “East-meets-West” clichés that characterize discussions of urban Shanghai and contemporary Chinese art, this book illuminates critical issues facing today’s artists, architects, and designers, and provides an essential field guide for students of art, design, art history, urban studies, and Chinese culture.