Shanghai’s Contemporary Art Scene

In the picture above you’ll see a couple large structures that were formerly used as oil tanks; these have now been reimagined as the backdrop for a contemporary art installment which I recently had the opportunity to check out!

The exhibit is put together by a group of artists known as teamLab.  Below are pictures from my experience at their Shanghai installation, Universe of Water Particles in the Tank.

Walking inside the tank, you are immediately immersed in an environment that pushes the boundaries of nature and technology, with interactive flower and water designs projected 360 degrees onto the surrounding walls and floor.  The projection is made from a specific computer software and is not played on a loop, so anything you see there in one particular moment will never be portrayed quite the same again.

The walls of the tank are also lined with sensors which grant the ability for human interaction with the artwork.  Standing against a wall of flowing water for example, the water would part around my body and flowers would gradually start to grow!

Because the inside of the tank was very dimly lit, the pictures can hardly do it justice.  I highly recommend checking out teamLab’s official pictures, as well as their other exhibits here.


Having a fashion designer roommate has its perks – I recently got to check out a temporary exhibit dedicated to CHANEL!

The exhibit was hosted inside the huge warehouse seen above.  We were slowly guided through the world of Chanel, from fragrance…

…to clothing design…

…to jewlery.

The exhibit was a great introduction to the history and craftsmanship of the brand and its iconic designers, and has definitely piqued my interest in learning more!

Traditional Chinese Painting Class

This past semester I had the opportunity to participate in a supplementary Chinese culture class on traditional Chinese painting.  We often painted very natural scenes, like flowers or fruits and vegetables, using a traditional Chinese style of water color painting.  It was both challenging and relaxing, and the professor was fantastic!

Making the Best Out of a Bad Situation

Over the course of the past semester, I completed my ICIP for Holy Cross, which is a project for study abroad students meant to help cultivate cultural immersion.  I chose to focus on contemporary art in China, and used interviews with local Beijing citizens as a means of research.  While I learned a lot about traditional Chinese art, it seemed that my interview subjects had very little knowledge of Chinese contemporary art or street art, or if it even existed at all.

Last week, I was finally able to see first-hand some contemporary Chinese art, although this opportunity came about in a rather unfortunate way…

As Beijing continues to rapidly develop, it is not uncommon to see this character spray painted over traditional houses or old buildings: 拆 chāi.  When you see 拆 spray painted on a building, you immediately know that there are plans to tear down this structure in order to build up something new.  China works fast – the demolition crew is practically around the corner.  It is a controversial yet fairly common phenomenon.

Sadly, I received news that a long standing and very much cherished branch of Tube Station, a pizza chain in China, was going to be torn down, along with the entire block.  In celebration of the years of enjoyment it brought to the community, Tube Station held a party during its last weekend, complete with free pizza and beers.  In addition, a Chinese street artist by the name of ROBBBB was given free reign of the space to create his signature aesthetic, known to encompass his view of Beijing as an ever changing city, simultaneously developing and in ruins.

I convinced a couple friends to go to the party with me.  As we walked out of the train station we could immediately tell something was off – the street felt dark and quiet in comparison to a typical Beijing street brimming with life and energy.  The entire area seemed completely abandoned, if not for the neon glow of the Golden Arches across the street.  We finally found the Tube Station branch tucked away between gated off areas of construction and entered.

The place was completely transformed – splatters of paint covered the walls, floor, and ceiling, while a light show danced to the beats pushed out by the DJ in the corner.  Already, people stood in line for pizza amidst a mountain of chairs and torn paintings clinging to the walls.  ROBBBB’s own original artwork was also there on display.  It seemed to be a great group of people present, and it was really exciting to see such a great turnout in support of the restaurant.

Overall, despite the grave circumstances, it was a really cool event that I am glad I got to be a part of.  I think Tube Station handled a bad situation in the coolest way they possibly could have, and I loved that they incorporated ROBBBB’s art and vision into this community event.  Here are some pictures from the event:


My First Trip to 798 Art District!

This past week I was lucky enough to get a couple much needed days off in celebration of China’s National Day, which is an annual public holiday marking the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Because almost everyone is off from school and work, this mini vacation was not a good time to travel or visit some of Beijing’s most famous sites; instead, my friends and I decided to check out a slightly more secluded part of Beijing called 798 Art District.  Before going, I was super excited about this opportunity because I am currently conducting a research project on contemporary/young adult art in China and its impact on Chinese culture.  It was so awesome to be able to see some contemporary Chinese art in person!

Stepping into the art district felt like being in a different world.  Most of the galleries seemed to be in abandoned industrial buildings and factories, but all of them seemed to have their own wonderland like twist, for example the giant panda statues and bright pink walls, or the Simpsons and Paul Frank characters outside of one shop.

One of my favorite pieces was a large outdoor mural with really intricate details of buildings and daily life, as well as a changing line of perspective.  It looked like a bird’s eye view of a futuristic city.  I am really looking forward to going back to 798 Art District very soon and continuing to explore – with so many twists and turns, I feel like I have barely cracked the surface of all it has to offer.