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Burgeoning art scene evolves from industrial wasteland
From:Shanghai Daily  |  2021-03-13 04:29

ONCE upon a time the Yangpu Riverside was home to various factories, warehouses and municipal infrastructure buildings. From east to west, factories stood tall and proud producing silk, wool, tobacco and soap, among many other things, as a signature of China’s industrial strength and cultural heritage.

But the 5.5-kilometer stretch, along the Huangpu River from Qinhuangdao Road to Liping Road, has been culturally reinvented and is now home to a burgeoning art scene.

The Yangpu Riverside has evolved, from all those old, abandoned buildings and dilapidated warehouses, into an indispensable art venue, booming with museums, galleries and art fairs.

“This is the biggest public art project financially supported by the government with a daunting figure of 150 million yuan,” said Art Pioneer Studio’s Robin Wong, the woman in charge of the project, from the initiation of the project, to the design, production, manufacture, implementation, consignment to the property management company and maintenance.

Twenty works of art, created by 29 artists from home and abroad, decorate the 5.5km riverside pedestrian avenue in Yangpu District. Big names such as Liu Jianhua, Xu Zhen, Song Dong, Oscar Oiwa and Felice Varini all contributed to the impressive project.

The works conjure up an immersive art experience for visitors, reflecting contemporary art, connecting history, memories and the urban reality of everyday life in Yangpu District.

Japanese artist Yusuke Asai’s “Wildness Growing up in the City” is perhaps the most interactive contribution to the project. Sited at Salvage Bureau Wharf, the work uses zebra-line white rubber materials to symbolize artifacts, making plant-symbolized flowers, and moving creature-symbolized birds to explore a natural way of existence in cities.

The artist invited nearby residents, teenagers and children to participate in his creations, and his work will be permanently retained in their living places. This piece of public art alters the top-down visual habit in a gallery and transforms viewers into the status of creators

The “Extraterrestrial Object” created by one of China’s top contemporary artists, Liu Jianhua, is simple and precise.

The outdoor sculpture takes the overwhelming shape of a falling raindrop; here the artist continues to explore the idea of “purity.” The abstract shape of the sculpture invites visitors to find connections between nature, life and art.

Coated in fluorescent paint, the 20-meter-long sculpture appears luminous against the night sky. The work-adopted colors were made of fluorescent materials. The luminous energy emitted by the material can be clearly seen, even at night. The artist also placed a laser light on top of the sculpture, radiating directly into the night sky. The long laser beam creates the “huge green raindrop,” which looks like an extraterrestrial object from outer space.

The “Set of Diagonals for Cranes” is an unmarked piece of art. This work takes shape on three disused orange unloading cranes located on the docks. The pattern, which can be only seen from one angle, sets up a dialogue between the three cranes, creating a work that communicates with the history of the site while situating it within a contemporary public art context.

“I use geometric composition to interact with reality. When you stand in the best observation point, you are replacing my eyes, but as you move and observe, you will obtain your own thoughts. Thus the so-called best observation point is very fragile, it is merely a beginning, a part of reality,” said Felice Varini, the artist who created a “Set of Diagonals for Cranes.”

The project also involves some indoor public art, such as “One Year/Ten Thousand Years” created by Yoshiyuki Kawazoe.

The site of the work is located in the Soapery Café, which was the old Shanghai Soap Factory. Inspired by a cave-like space and its historical use, Kawazoe has installed forms that resemble abstract stalagmites and stalactites made from plastic and coated in soap and salt. Each stalagmite and stalactite lights up at different intervals, engaging visitors’ olfactory sense and augmenting an immersive experience.

The most impressive venue in this project goes to “Gallery of ‘Mé’.” It is located in an underground space, which was originally used for the liquid storing of an electricity generator. When meandering through the downstairs, visitors will be bumped into a cavernous gallery installed with several works including two sculptures titled “Repetitive Object,” three circular acrylic sculptures titled “Acrylic Gas,” an LED installation “Lime” and a 9m-high seascape installation titled “Contact,” made of resin and wood.

Tips for strolling the Yangpu Riverside:

Choose a sunny day, wear a pair of sneakers and do remember to inspect the labels on the ground from time to time so you don’t miss a real piece of public art.

It is advisable to enter the site at168 Gaoyang Road.