Whether you’re a tourist, visiting business person or recently arrived expat, I hope this subjectively-prioritized list of contemporary art museums in Shanghai inspires you to further enjoy one of the greatest cities on earth!
Not covered here are first tier city museums like Shanghai Museum or her Urban Planning Centre. Also not included are private art galleries, such as those gathered at M50, or museums covering other cultural areas like, for example, the brilliant Museum of Cultural Revolution posters or of the founding of the communist party in Xintiandi. You should definitely check these out too when you have a moment.
Now, on to the museums…
1) Long Museum (West Bund)
When it opened in 2012, the Long Museum Pudong was the largest private museum in China, founded by billionaire investor Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei. Situated at a former coal-loading wharf by the Yangzi river, this museum of reinforced concrete uses industrial architecture in an impressive, utilitarian avant-garde design. This is one of three museums to feature one of the most important private Chinese art collections in the world. Although it is weighted towards and more celebrated for its contemporary works, the couple have also invested heavily at auction in pieces from Imperial and Republican eras, for example paying nearly $40 million for a tiny Ming dynasty “chicken cup” and controversially immediately celebrating the purchase by drinking tea from it! This building is comprised of several exhibition spaces. Although the previously excellent “permanent exhibition” (moved during Covid) is currently absent, the quality of art shown in this museum is always worthy of attention.
Address: 3398 Longteng Avenue, Xuhui District, Shanghai, Long Museum (West Bund)
Chinese Address: 上海市徐汇区龙腾大道 3398 号龙美术馆（西岸馆）
Web URL: http://www.thelongmuseum.org/en/
Adult ticket price: 320RMB
2) Power Station of Art
This is the most politically influential contemporary art museum in the city and possibly the country. Owned by the municipality of Shanghai, the state-run Shanghai Contemporary Art Museum, as it is known in Chinese, is the official host of the prestigious Shanghai Biennale. Housed in what was formerly the coal-fired Nansha electricity generation plant, the massive 41,000 m2 (410,000 square feet) space was converted into the Pavilion of the Future for the 2010 Shanghai Expo and two years after was re-purposed to house China’s first public contemporary art museum. There is no permanent exhibition – at any time you will find a number of high-quality temporary exhibitions of notable variety.
This museum is right beside the Team Labs exhibition space and so it would make sense to combine the two in a visit to this area.
Address: 678 Miaojiang Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai, 200011, Power Station of Art
Chinese Address: 海市黄浦区苗江路号上海当代艺术博物馆
Web URL: https://www.powerstationofart.com/whats-on
Adult ticket price: Exhibitions priced variously from 0 – ~100RMB
3) China Art Museum
One of the most famous paintings in Chinese art history is the twelfth century “Along the River during Qing Ming festival” (清明上河圖), painted by Zhang Zeduan. This has been called China’s “Mona Lisa” to give you an idea of its importance. 25 cm (10 inches) high and 5.25m (17’) long, it features scenes by the Bian River in the then capital of China, Kaifeng. In scroll format, it reveals life in both rural and urban China at all levels of society. You can see it online here.
Whilst the original is in the Palace Museum in Beijing, the authorities were inspired by the towering historical grandeur of this piece when they sought to anchor The China Art Museum with a suitably impressive work of contemporary art. That is because this architecturally stunning museum, which you can view here, was launched as the iconic monument of the 2010 Shanghai Expo, which following on from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, became Shanghai’s calling card to global relevance in the new millennium.
What you can see here today is a 3D animated version of the classic scroll painting. Called “River of Wisdom”, 128 m long (420’) and 6.5 m (21’) high, this amazing computer graphic with moving figures brings to life the entire scene in 4-minute day and night cycles. If you have even the most fragmentary art history bone in your body, you will be fascinated by it, but please note that other than this exhibit, there’s little reason to inspect the contents of this museum.
Address:205 Shanghai Road, Pudong Xin Qu, Shanghai. China Art Museum
Chinese Address: 上海市浦东新区上南路205号中华艺术宫
Web URL: https://www.artmuseumonline.org/art/art/index.html#page1/1
Adult ticket price: Free admission to permanent exhibition, 20RMB for special exhibition
4) Museum of Art Pudong
Owned by Lujiazui Group, a state-funded real estate company, primarily tasked with developing key aspects of the Pudong waterfront, the Pudong Art Museum is a 40,000 square meter space devoted to prominent temporary exhibitions in the heart of the city. Located beside the Oriental Pearl Television tower at the tip of the bend in the Yangzi river opposite the British-developed Bund embankment, this museum provides a cultural anchor for what is now probably the world’s most desirable real estate. The 13 galleries, designed by Pritzker winning French architect, Jean Nouvel, are so designed to accommodate both massive installations and the typical maze of whitewashed walls you’d typically expect to find. Also significant are the two glass fronted walkways looking onto the Bund as well as the magnificent views from the roof restaurant and terrace beside it. You should expect to find high quality exhibitions here whenever you visit – for example at the time of writing, the photographic works of Lin Heung Shing, spanning half a century of Chinese history, were featured beside a retrospective of Zeng Fanzhi, one of China’s best known contemporary artists, as well as a fabulous installation by Xu Bing.
Address: The Museum of Art Pudong , No.2777 Binjiang Avenue, Pudong New Area, Shanghai
Chinese Address: 上海市浦东新区滨江大道2777号浦东美术馆
Web URL: https://www.museumofartpd.org.cn/en/index
Adult ticket price: 200 RMB (weekend ticket)
5) Yuz Museum
Mr Budi Tek, who passed away in 2022, was one of several successful Indonesian-Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in contemporary Chinese art during its recent rise to prominence. His particular penchant was for installation art, especially very large pieces. His beautiful museum, built on the site of a former hangar of Longhua airport, now houses a portion of his impressive collection as well as offering temporary exhibitions to established artists. It is well worth a visit as part of your investigation of the West Bund area.
Address: No.8, Lane 123, Panding Road, Qingpu District, Shanghai, Yuz Museum
Chinese Address: 上海市青浦区蟠鼎路123弄8号余德耀美术馆
Web URL: http://www.yuzmshanghai.org/?lang=en
Adult ticket price: 140RMB
6) Team Labs
The absolutely spectacular international digital art collective, founded in Japan in 2001, offers a wonderfully immersive 3D digital display at the Epsom Team labs venue close to the Powerstation of Art in the West Bund area in Shanghai. If you have seen one of these before, then this won’t be quite so fabulous, but if you’re a first-timer, this is a must-see.
Address: Unit C-2 No 100, Huayuangang Lu, Huangpu, Shanghai , Team Labs
Chinese Address: 上海市黄浦区花园港路100号C-2馆无界美术馆
Web URL: https://www.teamlab.art/e/borderless-shanghai/
Adult ticket price: 249RMB (for weekend or weekday entry)
7) Fosun Foundation
This exhibition space is prominent thanks to the kinetic installation around the museum building. Designed by Brit, Thomas Heatherwick, who created a sensation with the UK Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo and more recently with the 1000 Trees development near the M50 galleries, the perimeter of the museum roof is circled by three layers of bronze tubes of varying lengths hanging down from rails. At regular times of the day, the tubes that resemble waves of bamboo trunks or inverted organ pipes move around the building, revealing a terrace or stage within. Located within the Bund Financial Centre, a smart (in both senses) real estate development, the Fosun Foundation becomes a destination in its own right even without the benefit of the temporary exhibitions it regularly features. The quality of the exhibitions (and the ticket prices) vary from good to excellent, but really both the exterior of the Foundation and the development it introduces are worth a trip in themselves.
Guo Guangchang and his Fosun Group are worthy of a short word. In brief, five young graduates from Fudan University, one of China’s finest, clubbed together in 1992 to start an investment company. Here we are thirty-five years later and it’s one of the largest conglomerates in the world, owning amongst other assets Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, a Premier League football club (soccer), Thomas Cook, the venerable travel firm and Club Med. Congrats to them!
Address: Fosun Foundation, Bund Finance Centre, 600, Zhongshan East 2nd Road Shanghai 200010
Chinese Address: 上海市黄浦区中山东二路600 号200010复星艺术中心
Web URL: https://www.fosunfoundation.com/en/
Adult ticket price: 40 – 300RMB according to exhibition
Closed Monday except public holidays
8) West Bund Project (Pompidou)
Whilst the David Chipperfield-designed West Bund Museum is one of the city’s most prominent new museums, its politically-inspired ten-year relationship with the Georges Pompidou Centre means that it more naturally commands the attention of local Chinese interested in traveling exhibitions of French art than visiting foreigners investigating local Chinese talent.
“Mirrors of the Portrait. Highlights of the Centre Pompidou collection” is the third and current semi-permanent exhibition from the famed Parisian collection. This will run from July 2023 to November 2024, to be replaced by other differently-themed collections from the same European museum. Reflecting the museum’s dual role also reflecting Chinese art’s role on the global stage, a secondary concurrent exhibition typically extols the merits of a local artist. In addition, the museum features other temporary exhibitions, details of which can be accessed on its website.
Address: No.2600 Longteng Avenue, Xuihui District, Shanghai, West Bund Museum
Chinese Address: 上海市徐汇区龙腾大道2600号西岸美术馆
Web URL: https://www.wbmshanghai.com/en/
Adult ticket price: 100RMB for Pompidou exhibition, 200RMB for all exhibitions