Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Asian Art Museum: Shanghai (Opening February 12th)

The Asian Art Museum will usher in the Year of the Tiger with  another ground breaking exhibit, this one focused on our sister city, Shanghai.

During its history, this small town on the banks of the Yangpoo river grew from a fishing village to a huge, sophisticated and polyglot metropolis. Shanghai's culture and government represented the best and worst of East and West. It's been a refuge for groups as diverse as the native Chinese fleeing revolution and civil war, White Russians fleeing the Russian Revolution and Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. The city was the gateway into China for European (and later Japanese) businessmen which forced the lethal opium trade upon the Chinese, reaping immense profits while creating a huge population of addicts. The city was a byword for lawlessness, cruelty, courtesans, decadence and (for some), luxury and profit.  Life became a highly charged affair, what the Chinese call "jenao", a perpetual "hot din" of the senses.*

In the 1920's and 1930's, the  intellectual ferment in the city led to nationalist revolts against both the foreign devils and the corrupt local government. It saw the formation of both the Nationalist and Chinese Communist Parties. Both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao had their start in the city's political turmoil. Shanghai gave birth to a flourishing artistic culture that extended from the 19th century to today.Two cultures met here but neither one prevailed. That clash created the diverse works that will be shown in the exhibit.

The exhibit at the Asian will feature more than 130 oil paintings, Shanghai Deco furniture and rugs, revolutionary posters, works of fashion, movie clips, and contemporary installations. These artworks, drawn mainly from the collections of the Shanghai Museum, the Shanghai Art Museum, the Shanghai City History Museum, and the Lu Xun Museum, include the most significant visual documents of the city’s rich and ever-changing culture.

Opening February 12th:

For more on the year-long Shanghai Celebration:

Other references:
Stella Dong. Shanghai. The Rise and Fall Of A Decadent City.
* Harriet Sergent. Shanghai. Collision Point of Cultures - 1918/1939.

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