M50: art district in Shanghai

In a city where Art Nuveau archi­tec­ture blends with mod­ern one-​hundred-​floor sky­scrapers, old Shanghainese houses and Spanish man­sions there is an old indus­trial area which is now con­ver­ted into an art dis­trict called Mogashan 50. Often com­pared to Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, it’s Shanghai’s place to be for young, tal­en­ted and con­tem­por­ary artists.

Old factor­ies and ware­houses were brought back into life ten years ago when these spaces star­ted to be used by artists, design­ers, fil­makers and archi­tects. Now the ex — tex­tile mill is filled with more than 120 local and inter­na­tional gal­ler­ies, cre­at­ive offices, stu­dios and work­shops. Due to the district’s diversity, M50 attracts a mixed crowd of people. Art col­lect­ors and deal­ers come here to spot emer­ging artists, people inter­ested in design and archi­tec­ture come to mar­vel at bright and big loft spaces, art lov­ers from every­where in the world come to get an impres­sion on con­tem­por­ary art in Shanghai and some people just come to relax in one of the cosy cafes.

M50 has everything. Big and world renowned ShanghART is here as well as small and very local gal­ler­ies and shops. The qual­ity of art­works also var­ies sig­ni­fic­antly from very ques­tion­able and dec­or­at­ive kitch to inter­est­ing, con­cep­tual and fresh. However, since con­tem­por­ary Asian art is still mak­ing its first steps, some of the works presen­ted in the gal­ler­ies might seem a little dis­a­point­ing and ama­teur­ish. It takes time to find art that would sur­prise, attract, make one stop and look. Anyway, it hap­pens and when it does, it’s cer­tainly worth it.

What’s most import­ant is that M50 houses bring together thriv­ing com­munity where artists inter­act with each other as well as with the audi­ence and that will lead to some great res­ults in the future. However, its future might be some­where else than the old tex­tile mill area. Apparently, huge real estate pro­jects are threat­en­ing the art dis­trict and it might be just a mat­ter of time when new and shiny sky­scrapers will take over the space. Nonetheless, for the time being, M50 keeps grow­ing as is its import­ance in the art world. And, unlike 798 Art Zone in Beijing which is crowded, com­mer­cial and more of a tour­ist des­tin­a­tion than an art dis­trict, M50 is still itself. It might not have the most inter­est­ing art in the world yet but at least it is about art and not about buy­ing souven­irs or sip­ping wine in numer­ous res­taur­ants as it is in Beijing.

Aistė Stancikaitė
About author:
Aistė Stancikaitė
Aiste Stancikaite works with images and text to tell stories about places and people. She is interested in reality and how it transforms into multiple narratives when it's pictured. Aiste has finished B.A. degree in Fine Arts (Painting) and since then is travelling, making photo essays, writing articles and doing other creative projects. At the mom... Read further >
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