M50 – is this Shanghai’s Art District?
M50 is so called because the address of this old Textile Mill is 50 Moganshan Lu – and it is either a Metro ride to the end of the 7 line and then a 10 minute walk or a simple taxi ride.
As a copy of the art commune in Beijing called 798 – M50 is Shanghai’s attempt to create something; that happened organically in Beijing; by updating the old buildings and providing studio space and gallery space for the growing number of local artists.
Unfortunately, as Shanghai has done with many old buildings already, the Textile mill has been covered in concrete and render and it is only the plaques on the outside of the buildings that tell you that you are not looking at a new build.
Inside, the shell of these fantastic old buildings are allowed to show through much more and the space and potential for this area comes alive.
What a few hours at the site shows however is that there are two uses of the buildings at this point – galleries that are more empty than not and have original and in some cases interesting work and then spaces full of typical bad copy work that you can buy in any ‘artist village’ in Shenzhen and it is this that is going to put off visitors and probably real artists who should be flocking to a ready made space.
Is it worth a visit? Probably if you have time to kill and like to have a wander around somewhere else apart from the Bund.
Is it going to surprise you or turn you onto Chinese contemporary art? Probably not as this place is already too institutionalized for that and doesn’t seem to have any new contemporary art anyway.
At this point you should have guessed that as this area is already in the Lonely Planet City Guide as a ‘must see’ – that the art scene has already moved on (or never arrived) and what is left is going to become another copy artist village before too long with some nice duplex flats on the side of the river.
If they managed to add a few cafes and perhaps a restaurant or two – then it would become the destination it has the potential to become; but the one kiosk selling warm cans of coke is probably not going to bring in the crowds at this point.