China’s financial capital or the ‘city on the sea’, has always had a rather alluring story that lends much mystique to this sublime city. 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
D I S C O V E R
COLLECTION OF PRIVATE MUSEUMS
LONG MUSEUM is the brainchild of famed Chinese collectors, Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei. Its West Bund venue is designed by homegrown firm, Atelier Deshaus. This is a clever reinterpretation of a 1950s former wharf for coal transportation back the Atelier 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 also has a second venue at Pudong.
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 for its home that houses the Chinese conglomerate’s contemporary art platform- it is designed jointly by the venerable Foster + Partners and the excitingly prolific Heatherwick Studios. The Foundation is missioned to promote different forms of Chinese traditional culture too. 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 brims 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.
D I S H
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 with a modernist makeover in 2016 by long-time collaborators Neri & Hu, the original gentlemen’s club-look is 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 set side by side with Shanghai’s skyline.
Elevated Shanghaiese cuisine with a 1920s villa as its posh backdrop. Refined, creative, bossy (no menu is offered) and deeply satisfying.
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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
Sustainable travel is part of our Ethos here at Bespokcracy and this resort is well and deep into that: the camphor trees were originally situated in Fuzhou but the building of the dam would have submerged them. Local entrepreneur Ma Dadong then set about moving all of them to what would be the the grounds of Amanyangyun. Kerry Hill weaves his magic and trademark minimalism into the Ming & Qing dynasty villas, resulting in the most spectacular heritage preservation efforts there is, while having all the uber-modern amentities expected of an Aman resort. Well worth
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.