Thursday, September 25, 2014

City Paradise

The Jing'an Sculpture Park 静安雕塑公园 has just opened a big international show of works on the theme of "City Paradise" - themes of past exhibitions were "City Pride" (2010) and "City Fantasy" (2012). Curiously they explore questions of the city as a place where its inhabitants find their spiritual fulfillment, realizing their dreams and embracing a sense of happiness and belonging (a central feature of the current Chinese Dream) especially through works featuring animals. The star attraction of the show is "Urban Fox" by Alex Rinsler, but I was struck also by two poetic works by Chinese sculptur Yan Shilin 颜石林, "Until We Meet Again" and "The Boy and the Ocean."

These works don't exactly communicate a sense of the city as a home for all of its residents, offering them a sense of identity and cultural roots - Rinsler re- purposed an older work with the situation of migrant workers in China's big cities in mind, for instance, where Yan's seems the expression of an urban existence for which nature and being at home in the world are fairy tales. But the Jing'an Sculpture Park, new home of the Shanghai Museum of Natural History (opening soon!), is a very pleasant open space, which many people were enjoying when I was there. I imagine I wasn't the only one to notice swallows careening nearby as night fell.

This was my first visit to this part of Shanghai, West Nanjing Road, where all the luxury brands have enormous shops. Cosmpolitan confection Jing'an Temple itself was closed when I got there, but, as gaudy as the Cartier and Vuitton stores nearby, I wasn't sorry to miss it.

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