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Shanghai web materials

Blog readers who are interested in our Shanghai show, which opens February 12, should keep an eye on the Shanghai exhibition web page, which is the central hub for all of our Shanghai materials. There are several things already up, and more will follow soon.

Today Nico supplied a reading list from the standpoint of a retail book specialist (as distinguished from a curator’s bibliography, which would likely be somewhat different). Nico is well informed and her judgment is sound, so this list would be an excellent starting point for learning about Shanghai. A portion of the page is shown above (click the image to see the rest).

The show spans the history of Shanghai, from its mid-nineteenth century treaty port days to the present.

a new neighbor?

Public art: love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it provokes a lively public debate (and a lot of name-calling on SFist or Craigslist).

Personally, I’m looking forward to the possibility of seeing this in our front yard.

You may remember Zhang Huan as the cover boy for Britta Erickson’s exhibition and catalog of the same name, On the Edge: Contemporary Chinese Artists Encounter the West.

Zhang Huan, My New York

Zhang Huan, My New York

Splitting his time between New York and Shanghai, Zhang’s work is dynamic and physically demanding.  Although trained as a painter, his oeuvre is largely comprised of rigorous performances and monumental sculpture, the latter of which is no less challenging.  In this instance, the artwork may prove too heavy for the Civic Center Garage, which is housed beneath the expanse of the plaza.

Whether the piece will make it remains to be seen; however, there’s no denying that the Buddha would be a nice addition to the roster of exhibition-and-expo-related events that are taking over the city for the rest of the year.

The Lady from Shanghai

The Lady from Shanghai is a classic noir film, released in 1947, starring Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. It’s melodramatic but probably not quite as straightforwardly so as this trailer suggests. It doesn’t have much to do with Shanghai, but the title no doubt carried connotations of sexuality and decadence that American audiences of the period associated with that city.

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Shanghai film clips

My homework this week is scanning old Chinese movies for interesting clips of Shanghai for possible screening in the exhibition. The exhibition curator Michael Knight was given a stack of DVDs from a Chinese contact with permission to use. (I think they are all in the public domain).

乌鸦与麻雀 / Crows and Sparrows poster (1949)

乌鸦与麻雀 / Crows and Sparrows poster (1949)

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See you in Shanghai

The end of Emerald Cities, a farewell to the treasures of Burma and Thailand, and words fail me.

Better to let a photograph do the work.

AFP/Getty Images

Pandaphants. AFP/Getty Images

Shanghai audiotour with Joan Chen

Jay Xu (center) with his wife Jennifer (left) actress Joan Chen (right)

Asian Art Museum director Jay Xu (center) with his wife Jennifer (left) actress Joan Chen (right). Photo by Catherine Bigelow

It’s one of those pinch-me-is-this-for-real? moments: today I was sending an email to Joan Chen, yes THAT Joan Chen–the super talented and gorgeous film star and director. I think the first movie I saw her in was The Last Emperor and the most recent was Lust, Caution, much of which was set in Shanghai. Those two mega movies bookend an incredibly interesting career that still has lots of surprises in store. Checking out her filmography on Wikipedia I was delighted to note she starred in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street, set in the lovely (no sarcasm intended) city of Baltimore (“Ball-more” for many natives), near where I grew up. Homicide used to be my favorite TV show so now I will be hunting this episode down. Did you know she also played Josie Packard in David Lynch’s TV series Twin Peaks?

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Joyous Holiday


If you grew up in a Chinese-American household (or had extended Chinese family like I did), you know that holidays can be a big deal regardless of religion.

Traditions of years past have have included the requisite dim sum breakfast and North Indian dinner, with occasional forays into pho and Burmese samusa soup.   Seeing restaurants in the Richmond District packed on Christmas Day is proof that the combination of food, family, and friends makes a holiday in this city more than anything else.

Our museum isn’t open on December 25th, but that doesn’t mean that Asia doesn’t know how to celebrate putting shiny stuff on a tree.

Adam Minter makes just this point in his blog, Shanghai Scrap.  For your culturally incongruous pleasure, here are 141 displays of arboreal enhancement.

I kind of want to offer a prize for the first person who finds me this project’s equal for menorahs–given Shanghai’s Jewish history, I was surprised to not find more pictures.  Anyone?

Shanghai, closer than you think

Excitement is building for Shanghai: Art of the City.

DurianDave, who runs the excellent vintage Chinese cinema blog, Soft Film, spotted us in the old Diesel site downtown.


So nice to be noticed, isn’t it?

To go please

The upcoming Shanghai exhibition got me thinking about Shanghai cuisine. What do I know about it? Absolutely nothing, well, except for this dumpling called Xiao Long Bao. According to the description in Wikipedia:

Shanghai does not have a definitive cuisine of its own, but modifies those of the surrounding provinces (mostly from adjacent Jiangsu and Zhejiang coastal provinces). What can be called Shanghai cuisine is epitomized by the use of alcohol. Fish, eel, crab, and chicken are “drunken” with spirits and are briskly cooked/steamed or served raw. Salted meats and preserved vegetables are also commonly used to adjuntify the dish.

Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao

As far as I’m concerned, any food “drunken” with spirits has to taste good. Anyway, back to Xiao Long Bao or “small steamer bun.” This dumpling is filled with pork or minced crab and soup. The soup is what got me the first time I ate it. Somebody forgot to tell me it was scalding hot and I put the whole thing in my mouth thinking it was just another dim sum. Apparently, there’s a technique to eating this innocent looking dumpling (filled with lava). You’re supposed to bite off the top, suck all the soup, then dip it in vinegar before eating. That was my introduction to Shanghai cuisine but I need to learn more. If you know of any other Shanghai dishes I should try, feel free to add your 2 cents.

Super #1 Thursday

You’ve probably heard that we’re closed Thursday nights until the Shanghai exhibition starts up next year.  Bittersweet, considering the packed Thursday evenings of the last few months, but, this meant that I could finally drag one of my hard-working colleagues out for First Thursday.  Neither of us had been to the hive of galleries at 49 and 77 Geary in a long time, which is just as well.  I find that I quickly lose steam amidst the press of cheap wine-drinking art lovers and the awkward first dates–much better to visit galleries in quiet moments after the opening, when socializing takes a backseat to the work. 
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