China’s financial capital or the ‘city on the sea’, has always had a rather alluring story and history-shaping developments, both instrumental in moulding her into one of the elite cities of our times. From being one of the first Chinese cities to come into contact with western ideas and influences and the resultant forced partitioning of the city by disparate colonial powers to being the pièce de resistance of Deng’s modernization plans, anointed to be the engine of the country's commercial renaissance, Shanghai’s path to stardom hasn’t been the simplest. However the arduousness has produced unexpected outcomes. For example, the colonial presence meant a distinct culture, architecture and way of life in each partitioned section (one of which is the famous French Concession neighbourhood), and the commercial renaissance meant that Shanghai could shake off the shackles of the Cultural Revolution quicker than most other cities, having cascading effects on a renaissance of another type- that of art. It has allowed artists to express their creative freedom (within confined boundaries naturally) and the wealth generated through the past few decades has allowed institutions like private museums to be established all over Shanghai, whose owners have proved a crucial boon to the local art market, propelling it to become the world’s second-largest in 2017. Paradox has a middle name in Shanghai, but what a beautiful way that it is being manifested.
wee black book : SHANGHAI EDITION
TOKYO WEE BLACK BOOK
COLLECTION OF PRIVATE MUSEUMS
LONG MUSEUM is the brainchild of famed Chinese collectors, Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei, comes the Long Museum with its West Bund venue designed by homegrown firm, Atelier Deshaus, led by Liu Yichun. This is a clever reinterpretation of a former wharf for coal transportation back in the 1950s which Liu makes extensive references to in order to let the history speak for itself. The collection itself centres on Chinese art from all ages to contemporary art from all over the globe but with a keen focus on Asia still. It has now grown to 3 outposts including the aforementioned West Bund venue. Check out the Pudong venue too for a complete Long experience if time permits.
YUZ MUSEUM is a passion project of Budi Tek, who is renowned both as a collector and his pursuit to drive philanthropic causes within the arts. Occupying a former hangar in the West Bund area that is marvellously reimagined by Sou Fujimoto, this private museum represented a major milestone in Shanghai’s art museum scene when it opened in 2014 and is partially attributed to the revitalisation of the West Bund area, which is now also the setting of one of China’s most important art fairs, the West Bund Art & Design.
Lastly, FOSUN FOUNDATION employs the best in British design talent, the building that houses the Chinese conglomerate’s contemporary art platform is designed jointly by the venerable Foster + Partners and the excitingly prolific Heatherwick Studios. Programming. The Foundation is missioned to promote different forms of Chinese traditional culture too and encourages cultural and artistic dialogue on this front with the best institutions and individuals around the world. Converse away but definitely do not leave without visiting the rooftop which houses Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima’s permanent spatial installation, “Counter Sky Garden,” which is made up of of 300 LEDs with the numbers one to nine blinking simultaneously at different speeds.
ROCKBUND ART MUSEUM
Right from the beginning, the Rockbund Art Museum has big shoes to fill, taking over the building that once housed China’s first public museum. But under the brilliant architectural direction of David Chipperfield, who was commissioned with the restoration and conversion of this delectable 1932 Art Deco building as part of the larger Rockbund Project, this has now transformed into one of the most important contemporary art venues in Shanghai, pushing the envelope with projects with both news and established artists and curators, often crossing interdisciplinary lines to marry architecture, art and even dance.
Not to be outmatched by Beijing’s 798 Art District, Shanghai’s M50 Art Distrct holds its own with an eclectic community of contemporary artists, near the banks of Suzhou Creek, despite its smaller size. Apart from its name which references its address (50 Moganshan Road), there is nothing unimaginative about this warren of studios, galleries, cafés and boutiques in a set of defunct warehouses, primarily dealing with textiles back in its heyday, which now brimming with creativity of all forms and art installations that changes regularly. A good balance to the structured and institutionalized approach to art with our other recommendations above.
MR. & MRS. BUND
Come to Paul Pairet’s Ultraviolet to see the rulebook of gastronomy being ripped up in front of your eyes. This is a multisensory experience that goes beyond just food and only 10 lucky diners go on this ride at an undisclosed location each evening. Magma Design is behind the conception of other-worldly interiors to ensure the best sensory attack on the diners. Although expect a price tag that reflects its vast undertaking correspondingly. Watching the purse-strings or don’t have the patience for the 3-month waiting list (which is exactly something Bespokcracy is here for), then try Mr. & Mrs. Bund, another Pairet institution in Shanghai.
Jean-Georges represents the first wave of western star chefs banging on Shanghai’s doors more than a decade back, transporting his eponymous fine-dining concept from New York to Three on the Bund. Housed in a Neo-Renaissance-style building replete with a modernist makeover in 2016 by long-time collaborators Neri & Hu which saw the original gentlemen’s-club look being refashioned into an airy, cream-colored space, which embraces the building’s Beaux-Arts heritage, while window-side antique mirrors etched with quotes from French philosophers setting side by side with Shanghai’s skyline.
A gastro-lounge and an impossibly cool modern version of a speakeasy which frequents the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list, The Nest was instrumental in ushering in Shanghai’s cocktail revolution. Designer Andy Hall from MQ Studio incorporated a Scandinavian aesthetic into an expansive dining room that conjures a Mad Men–era loft, where suaveness and a constant martini in hand is non-negotiable. Chef Freddy Raoult’s innovative version of Northern European bites syncs perfectly with the surrounding aesthetics, but arguably, the inventive drinks are the stars discerning imbibers keep coming back for.
S N O O Z E
WATERHOUSE AT SOUTH BUND
Chinese architects Neri&Hu’s, one of China's most prominent forward-looking architectural voices, teams up with seasoned Singaporean boutique hotelier, Loh Lik Peng, to transform this derelict former Japanese army headquarters from the 1930s into a very boutique 19-key hotel that still retains glimmers of its working dock-industrial past. Neri&Hu’s also seamlessly provides its vision for the interiors, by magnificently blurring and inverting the public and the private, which presents a spatial language quite like no other. Combined with the clever integration of its environment perched right by the Huangpu River and offering unobstructed vistas of the famous Pudong skyline, it is almost like being in Shanghai but not actually being in Shanghai.
THE MIDDLE HOUSE
The House Collective from the Swire Group extends its authority in sleek and understated hospitality here in its third property, with interiors artfully executed by acclaimed architect and designer Piero Lissoni who drew inspiration from Shanghai’s rich culture and crafts heritage. The resulting design combines Lissoni’s signature material-driven approach with Shanghainese refinement for an aesthetic language that is soothing but also bold enough to be exciting. Some say this is textbook minimalistic design but that would be missing the finer details ingrained throughout the hotel including the vertically-set bamboo green tiles in the lobby that seeks to carve its path quite apart from the textbook rest.
THE PULI HOTEL AND SPA
Behind grey brick walls and nestled within lush Japanese-zen padicured greenery lies a sanctuary of calm unsurpassed in Shanghai. The luring into the hotel’s distinct mission of resetting you in an environment that leaves the hustle of city-dwelling far behind starts with your stepping into the carvenous lobby whchih has an immediate sense of elegant infiniteness. Then you are brought further into this peaceful world created jointly by the Australian firm of Layan Design Group and Indonesian firm Jaya & Associates, with a sumptuously seductive bar, a deeply sexy library, topped off by one of the cities most sought-after spa, run by Anantara. The luring never ceases in a quiet masterpiece like this one.