/ San Francisco Traveler
San Francisco — By kleland on June 23, 2010 at 9:00 am
Filed under: featuredarticle, museums

Shanghai At The Asian Art Museum

It had always been one of my dreams to travel to China, so when opportunity and planning got their heads together a few years ago, I went with a good friend for a two-week trip. China was everything I expected and more. I was particularly taken with Shanghai and its in-your-face juxtaposition of modern progress and old-school life in China.

So it was with great anticipation that I went a few weeks ago to see the new Shanghai exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. The exhibit, while small, immediately thrust me back into some of the flavor of those two weeks, and I couldn’t help but have a hankering for dim sum before I’d even gone through the last room of the collection.

The show is the first exhibition of its kind to explore the unique flavor and identity of one of China’s most cosmopolitan cities. A study in cultural globalization, the exhibition investigates the internal and external influences that have helped to create the city’s distinctive character. It includes over 130 artworks, among them, trade oil paintings, Shanghai deco furniture and rugs, revolutionary poster art, fashion, movie clips, and contemporary art and video installations.

The Shanghai exhibition is divided into four broad sections providing an overview of the major cultural and historical developments in Shanghai: “Beginnings” (1850–1911), “High Times” (1912–1949), “Revolution” (1920–1976), and “Shanghai Today” (1980–present).

What grabbed me with the most emotion was the striking Shanghai Garden, situated closest to Lee Gallery on the east side of North Court. It is an installation composed of two silicone rubber Taihu rocks, manufactured from molds of real Taihu rocks, which, in traditional Chinese garden culture, are prized for providing city dwellers with a kind of symbolic access to nature. The rocks are accompanied by a silicone rubber vase. Together they are arrayed atop a pavement of gray antique bricks, acquired from the demolition of Shanghai houses constructed between 1923 and 1926. This piece, more than any other in the exhibit, symbolized the tug between modern and disappearing China that I had so profoundly experienced on my trip.

The Asian Art Museum’s presentation of Shanghai is the cornerstone of the Shanghai Celebration, a San Francisco Bay Area-wide program that honors the region’s unique relationship with Shanghai. The Celebration includes concerts, performances, films, lectures, special events and more, presented by dozens of Bay Area organizations.

The Celebration will occur throughout 2010, the year Shanghai hosts the World Expo (May 1 through October 31). For more information on the Shanghai Celebration, please visit shanghaicelebration.com.

The Shanghai exhibit will remain at the Asian Art Museum (map) through September 5, 2010.

Photo courtesy of Flickr uniquebuildings

Related places:
  1. A
    Art Asian Museum Foundation
    200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA, United States
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