I told my sister-in-law that I had a very, “happy china” day yesterday. I left work early and made my way down to see the Andy Warhol Solo Exhibit in shanghai. I had to ask my colleague to write the cross streets of the gallery in Chinese (cab drivers don’t read-a-dee engrish), and he asked me what was there. I told him the Warhol exhibit, and he didn’t know who he was! I said: Campbell’s soup? Monroe? MAO? Nothing. And I realized that Warhol is quintessentially an American artist, and wondered how good can the show be in China where most Chinese don’t seem to even recognize his name? In any case, I went, and it was spectacular. Hands down, one of my favorite Shanghai moments for two reasons: it satiated the designer as well as the dorky planner in me.
Graphic designers are like punk rock fans, they like to take first dibbs on the occult following for any artist, Lissitzky, Laslo. And with Warhol they like to tout that they’ve appreciated his work as a designer and illustrator far before he became regarded as the king of pop art. And when I say graphic designers, I mean me. Warhol isn’t one of my favorites, but I’ve always liked his simple illustrations and sensuous still lifeS. He had a way of making a vase of flowers look like it was dripping with emotion, so it was a real treat to see some of his early work. Secondly, the space was breathtaking and was not only a perfect venue to represent Warhol’s raw, industrial side, but was in itself a perfect example of adaptive re-use.
The building was an old shanghai steel company that was built in the 50’s and the original textures were all retained. The 3,000 square meter structure is split into two exhibit spaces and also holds commercial space housing lots of trendy design companies. The building sits on a 50,000 square meter open area with a dedicated sculpture park. Of course a lot of American companies are building satellite offices, taking advantage of the rent that’s cheap now, but will change and eventually push out the cool bookstores and cafes~sigh. nothing is perfect. (I’m feeling a client project coming on here!) Update on my travels: I’m working my Last few days here at the CAUPD and then I’m off to Hong Kong and Beijing!