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.