Five shows to see in Shanghai

Zhang Ruiy, Don Gallery, Shanghai. Courtesy the artist and Don Gallery Nina Canell at Leo Xu, Shanghai. Courtesy the artist and Leo Xu Felix Gonzalez-Torres at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai. Courtesy Rockbund Neil Beloufa, K11 Art Foundation, Shanghai Courtesy the artist Wu Jianan at MoCA Shanghai. Courtesy the artist

As, the Raqs Media Collective’s Shanghai Biennale, under the title, Why Not Ask Again, opens, ArtReview Asia takes a tour of what else Shanghai, one of the world’s richest and most populous cities has to offer.

The Felix Gonzalez-Torres retrospective at the Rockbund Art Museum, 20 years after the artist’s death, is a reminder that the personal is always political. Most of the works on display, created using everyday objects – light bulbs, stacks of paper, piles of sweets – were made during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and '90s, yet the artist’s meditation on love and loss, partnerships and emptiness, extends beyond both that time and context.

Neil Beloufa is also interested in relationships. His work Data for Desire however, included in a solo show of the artist’s work titled Soft(a)ware at the K11 Art Foundation has a rather more studied take. The video cuts between a house party full of American teens and their attempts to deal with their various attractions to each other, and a group of French students who are seemingly analysing that footage and working out a mathematical formulae for how likely each of the party goers are to hook up with each other. Awkward and funny at the same time.

Zhang Ruyi’s solo show of concrete and white ceramic tile sculptures at Don Gallery looks to the city of Shanghai for inspiration. Questions of urban development and conformity are signalled by the neat grids and smooth surfaces of the works, one of which partially blocks a doorway into one of the exhibition rooms, forcing visitors to squeeze through.

Nina Canell partly takes from the city too in her solo exhibition, Reflexology, at Leo Xu Projects. The Brief Signals series of sculptures, featuring forms of communication cable, are accompanied by strips of ripped posters hung delicately from the ceiling. With this simple gesture the Swedish artist makes the city seem vulnerable.

Curators Miriam Sun and Bao Wenwei take a different tact at MoCA Shanghai however, escaping to the countryside with the group show Shan Shui Within. ‘Shanshui’ refers collectively to mountains and rivers and artists including Qiu Zhijie, Wu Jianan and Yu Hong take inspiration from the natural curves of nature in an array of works that often hover been figuration and abstraction. 

For more on the Shanghai Biennale see here

10 November 2016