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© Courtesy of the Artist and Asian Art Museum
© Courtesy of the Artist and Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
February 12th, 2010 - September 5th, 2010

Union Square/Civic Center
Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun 10-5; Thu (Jan-Oct) 10-9; Thu (Nov-Dec) 10-5; closed Mon
fashion, furniture, movie-clips, China, installation


In the Lee, Hambrecht, Osher Galleries:

Shanghai explores, through the mirror of its art, the tumultuous history that has resulted in one of Asia’s most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities of today.

An American poet once wrote that “The artist is the antenna of the race.” For more than a century and half Shanghai artists have not only been documenting the city's many changes but also leading its way into the future. It is impossible to understand one of the world’s most intriguing cities without an awareness of its artists, or to understand its art without an awareness of the city’s history.

The exhibition features more than 130 oil paintings, Shanghai Deco furniture and rugs, revolutionary posters, works of fashion, movie clips, and contemporary installations. These artworks, drawn mainly from the collections of the Shanghai Museum, the Shanghai Art Museum, the Shanghai City History Museum, and the Lu Xun Museum, include the most significant visual documents of the city’s rich and ever-changing culture.

Shanghai is divided into four sections: Beginnings (1850–1912), High Times (1912–1937), Revolution (1920–1976), and Shanghai Today (1980–present).

Beginnings traces Shanghai from its modest start to its rise to prominence after its designation as a “Treaty Port” by Britain and China in the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing. Trade oil paintings, Shanghai school paintings, and a series of lithographs present the city as the international economic hub that it had become in a relatively short time.

High Times represents the golden era of Shanghai, when the city was at its historic commercial and cultural height. Ink and oil paintings, posters, qipao (dresses of a style created in the 1920s in Shanghai and made fashionable by socialites and upper-class women), film clips, and Shanghai deco furniture together capture the launching of a public romance with the city that continues today.

Revolution highlights a collection of propaganda posters that document the changing landscape of Shanghai as it embraced the call for industrialization during China’s new race toward modernization. Other artworks in this section include woodblock prints and ink and oil paintings.

Shanghai Today presents the visual culture that is emerging as the city reclaims its role as a leading center of global trade and finance. Photographs, prints, paintings, and installation art illustrate the face of this contemporary cosmopolis.

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