Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shanghai Social Diary

The view from Pam and Dick Kramlich's Shanghai Penthouse.
by Jeanne Lawrence

This summer may have been the time to be in China for sports fans, but with the plethora of exhibitions in Shanghai — from the seventh annual Shanghai Biennale to ShContemporary to the Shanghai Art Fair — fall was the perfect time for contemporary art lovers to visit the city.

I’ve been living in Shanghai this year (with occasional jaunts to my homes in New York and San Francisco) immersing myself in the country's art, business, culture and language and watching the incredible growth of a nation.
Director's Circle art tour Beijing and Shanghai.
I was fortunate enough to be in town for the arrival of the more than 40 members of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) Directors Circle—a group of heavy hitters who can afford to make major charitable donations to the museum.

The group was on a 10-day, whirlwind tour of China's burgeoning contemporary art scene that started in Beijing and ended in Shanghai.

They weren’t the only ones. The Contemporary Art Council of New York’s MOMA was also in Shanghai and I was sorry to have missed them, as I’ve been a long-time member.

Daniel Birnbaum, Pam Kramlich and Jack Lane, former SFMOMA director
“Ten years ago when [my husband] Norman and I were in China, Beijing and Shanghai had only a few galleries. Now look at it,” said chair of SFMOMA’s Director’s Circle Norah Stone. It was Stone who first proposed the idea of the trip to the SFMOMA trustees and director Neal Benezra.

Beijing-based journalist and curator Philip Tinari, a 2002 Fulbright Scholar with a master's in East Asian art from Harvard and the China advisor to Art Basel, organized and accompanied the group.

The group arrived in Shanghai in time for lunch at Kathleen’s 5, the rooftop restaurant above the Shanghai Art Museum. Afterward, they descended the stairs to visit the Seventh Shanghai Biennale housed in the former British-style Jockey Club.

That night, video-art collector and SFMOMA trustee Pam Kramlich and her husband Dick, co-founder of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, welcomed the group with a cocktail reception at their penthouse in Xintiandi, the ultra-fashionable planned community developed by Vincent Lo.

Among the evening's highlights was a short talk on the history of Shanghai given by AsiaMedia director and preservationist Patrick Cranley.
View from terrace of historic Bund and newly created Pudong towers.
San Franciscans enjoying the stunning view of the city's famous Bund and Pudong towers and the tasty hors d’oeuvres were Martha and Bruce Atwater; Carolyn and Preston Butcher; Dru and Art Gensler, whose eponymous architectural firm is erecting the tallest building in the world in Shanghai; Ann and Bob Fisher; former board president Elaine McKeon; Steve Merrill; Bobby and Michael Wilsey; Tom Weisel; Janet Barnes; Cissie Swig; Susan Swig; and Ken and Judy Seibel, whose daughter Jennifer married San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom this summer.

Also in town, was Daniel Birnbaum, curator for the 2009 Venice Biennale and Jack Lane, former director of SFMOMA and the Dallas Museum of Art. On this night it was announced for the first time that Lane will become the president and chief executive of the New Art Trust, a collection that is shared among the London’s Tate Modern, NYMOMA and SFMOMA.
The group learns about Shanghai.
There were plenty of locals there, too: the art celebrity and patron Pearl Lam, who founded the cutting-edge Contrasts gallery; David Chan of Shanghai Gallery of Art (Three on the Bund); venture capitalist Eric Li and his wife Yi Jing; Erik and Michelle Bethel; and Daphne Palmer, the Kramlichs' niece who just accepted a job with Pace Gallery in New York after studying Mandarin in Beijing last year.

Other locals in attendance were Arthur Solway, who last summer opened the Shanghai branch of New York’s James Cohan Gallery; Chinese classical painting expert Eric Wear with his wife, former Goldman Sachs exec Chuk-Kwan Ting; Los Angeles-bred Allison Gorsuch, daughter of Wendy Stark, who is a gallery associate at Contrasts.
Ken Siebel, Eric Li and wife Yi Jing, and Judy Siebel
Susan and Roselyne Swig
SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra
AsiaMedia director Patrick Cranley speaks
Art patron Pearl Lam with Allison Gorsuch
Norman Stone with Arthur Solway, director of James Cohan Gallery in Shanghai
Sine Bepler with journalist Philip Tinari
Jim Breyer, Pam Kramlich, Maria Manetti Farrow, and Austin Hills
Local couple Chuk-Kwan Ting and Eric Wear
Norah Stone with David Chan of Shanghai Gallery of Art
Artist Klaus Mettig, Jennifer Yen, and Liu Ying Mei
The next day I tagged along with the tour group to experience a full day of art.

We started out with a 30-minute drive to the outskirts of the city and a stop at the textile-factory-turned-studio of artist Zhang Huan and his more than 100 assistants.

Part of the Beijing’s “East Village” community of performance artists, Huan has shifted his practice from photographically documented performances to paintings and sculptures made with ash collected from Buddhist temples.
Studios of artist Zhang Huan
Artist Zhang Huan with Daphne Palmer
Shanghai Museum of Art's former British Jockey Club
Long lines for the Shanghai Biennale
Shanghai Red Town, a newly created art district
Red Town, a former steel factory
Collector Albert Dou, owner of Red Bridge Gallery
Liu Wei's solo exhibition at Red Bridge
Next it was back to the city to visit Shanghai’s Red Town on West Huai Hai, a former steel factory and one of the growing number of "art districts." After witnessing the success of the 798 Art District in Beijing, the Chinese government is now encouraging such creative zones.

Here we visited collector Albert Dou's Red Bridge Gallery, one of the first contemporary galleries to open here two years ago. My Landscape, a solo exhibition of paintings by Liu Wei, was on view.
Clockwise from top left: Shanghai Sculpture Space; Art exhibitions, art classes and design studios; Red Stone Foundation’s collection.
Across the lawn, we visited the Red Stone Foundation’s collection and the Shanghai Sculpture Space, which features some of the top Chinese artists.

With so much art filling our heads, we needed a break—and lunch. We headed to the center of the city and the famed, art deco Jin Jiang Hotel complex, a historical site. Here in 1972 the first joint Shanghai Communiqué was finalized by President Richard M. Nixon, Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai, and Dr. Henry Kissinger.
Lunch at Chinoise Story in historic Jin Jiang Hotel. Inset: Contemporary Chinese cuisine.
After lunch we stopped at the 50 Moganshan Road Art District (a.k.a. M50), home to hottest galleries in old factories and warehouses, where we visited Swiss-born Lorenz Helbling's ShangART Gallery. Helbling was one of the first to recognize the importance of contemporary Chinese Art and was the first Chinese dealer to participate in Art Basel.

At Helbling's gallery, we viewed the new, mesmerizing six-channel video installation East of Que Village by Yang Fudong, who has twice exhibited at the Venice Biennale. In the adjacent H-Space we saw a solo show of Zhang Enli's wonderful paintings of everyday objects.

We also visited multidisciplinary artist Qiu Anxiong's We are the World installation at the Xian Feng Industrial Park. Here, in the former factory theater and cafeteria, craftsman have manufactured several hundred "sculptured fiberglass [sic] dogs to illustrate a Chinese perspective in response to Western fears of globalization and competition,” according to Contrasts gallery.
50 Moganshan Road Art District
M50, where galleries are housed in former warehouses
Visit to ShangART Gallery
ShangART’s Lorenz Helbling with Geoffrey Beaumont
Yang Fudong's six-channel video installation
Next stop: a visit with artist Qiu Anxiong
Qiu Anxiong’s "We are the World" installation
Artist Zhang Enli at H-Space
Xian Feng Industrial Park, a former factory
That night the ubiquitous Pearl Lam honored the group with one of her legendary soirees at her whimsical, nearly 10,000 square-foot penthouse in the former French Concession district.

The daughter of the late Lim Por-yen, a Hong Kong tycoon, Lam divides her time among her homes in Shanghai, Hong Kong and London and has become a conduit between China and the West—both in the art and the social world.

The apartment, which overflows with ancient Chinese artifacts, art deco, Western and Chinese contemporary art and design, is a showcase for the work the petite powerhouse supports through the four branches of her Contrasts gallery.
Dinner at Pearl Lam's luxury penthouse in the former French Concession district.
Penthouse entrance.
Lam makes cover of Tatler.
An extraordinarily charming hostess, Lam draws an international mix of expats, locals, artists, curators, business people and other important passers through to her parties, where butlers serve multi-course meals and all her guests feel welcome.

“We had terrific travel companions (no complainers)," said Director's Circle member Anne Fisher of the trip. "The dinner at Pearl Lam's was the most memorable—quite a 'wow' evening."
Jeanne Lawrence, Pearl Lam, and Maria Manetti Farrow
Artist Qiu Anxiong with Lam
SF MOMA Director Neal Benezra
Art lovers view Lam’s private gallery
Qiu Anxiong installation
Carla Emil and Susan Swig
LA's Allison Gorsuch
Jennifer Yen and Jim Breyer
Fantasy penthouse designed by Lam
Table for 66 dinner guests
Nora Sun, granddaughter of Sun Yat-Sen
Whimsical mix of contemporary art, furniture and antiques
Peter Ting's porcelain hands awaiting the next extravaganza

Photographs by Jeanne Lawrence.
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