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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Out with the old, in with the new


My daughter has been taking Go (Ch: 围棋; Jp: 囲碁) lessons ever since we arrived in Shànghăi 上海 almost two years ago. Periodic competitions are held at various locations around the city - if the player wins three games in the allotted amount of time, he or she gets promoted to the next level. Amber started out at level ten (for beginners) and has since progressed to the seventh level. This morning it was time to take part in another tournament, this one held at one of the sites of Expo 2010, which as I understand it was quite a big deal at the time in Shanghai. As parents were not allowed to watch their kids play, I took the opportunity to walk around the area and see what was left of the exposition which supposedly introduced Shanghai as "the next great world city". Judging from the rusting and padlocked facilities of whatever pavilion once stood on the site where today's Go competition was held, greatness was fleeting:


The site is now partially occupied by something called the Crossfire Pro-League, symbolized for some reason by a large plane parked on the tarmac:


While my wife and mother-in-law (visiting from Taiwan) waited for our daughter to finish playing, I went for a walk. Across the street was the former Russian pavilion, now standing unused:


Next to it was Lithuania's pavilion, which used to invite visitors to "Discover Lithuania inside". Inside the gutted building this morning were two angry stray dogs. It's a good thing I don't believe in omens, because Vilnius will be our next post once my tour in Shanghai is completed:


I couldn't see if the huge Africa Pavilion has been re-purposed for anything, but the former Nigerian pavilion is now Chocolate Happy Land:


Much of the former Expo 2010 is now an apocalyptic-looking wasteland, testament to the folly of governments that spend billions on national vanity extravaganzas such as the Olympics, the World Cup and the like, only to be stuck with expensive white elephants once the parties are over. It was with a sense of relief that I found myself at Hòutān Garden 后滩公园, a welcoming green space located alongside the Huángpŭ River 黄浦江. The river itself is spanned by the impressive Lúpŭ Bridge 卢浦大桥:


There was a steady flow of barges, ships and other watercraft on the Huangpu as I walked toward the bridge:



It used to be possible for tourists to take an elevator to the top of the bridge's arch, but this doesn't appear to be the case any longer:


On the other side of the Lupu Bridge:



A pair of old cranes now serve as an observation deck:


No complaints about the weather today as the sky was relatively clear and the temperature was comfortable. The skyscrapers of Pŭdōng 浦东 could easily be made out: 


The Mercedes-Benz Arena  梅赛德斯奔驰文化中心 , one of the iconic buildings of Expo 2010, is now used for concerts:


It was at this point that Pamela called to say that Amber had finished, with the good news that she had won three out of four games and had been promoted to the sixth level. I made my way back under the Lupu Bridge...:


...past the derelict Lithuanian and Russian pavilions...:


...and back to the welcoming arms of my family. The four of us then took a bus (we had earlier taken a taxi from our compound to the site of the competition) to the new home of the Shanghai Art Museum 上海美术馆. The old museum had been housed in the former clubhouse building of the Shanghai Race Club, one of the many elegant Western-influenced buildings that give Shanghai its unique character among Chinese cities:


Now rechristened the China Art Museum 中华艺术宫, it has taken over Expo 2010's China Pavilion, a massive edifice. And I do mean massive:




My daughter demonstrates just how large the museum is:


While it's good to see the pavilion has found a new purpose in life, the sheer scale is just too vast to house the former Shanghai Art Museum's collection:


The art itself is of the modern and contemporary variety, which in this context meant too many stirring portrayals of comrades happily working to build New China:



Fortunately, some of the other artworks harked back to earlier times without any politically correct overtones:


The new facility did provide some good views from its upper floors:



Amber illustrates the excess of space in the new museum:


Pamela watches a cartoon, which were the only installations that held her attention:


The real reason Communism died was that even when repressive regimes allowed their artists some creative leeway, the results were still ghastly:



My daughter proudly displays her calligraphy skills. She's more adept with a writing brush than she is with a hairbrush:


The problem with the China Art Museum doesn't lie with the cost to get in - it's free, actually (except for special exhibitions). Unfortunately, being an officially sponsored exhibition space means the artwork displayed within has to conform to the Party line. And even the more interesting works tend to get swallowed up by the sheer size of the former China Pavilion, making it hard to appreciate the development of modern Chinese art. Before we leave Shanghai this summer, I hope to get out and see examples from contemporary Chinese artists that aren't shackled by politically-imposed restrictions. Anything has got to be better than this:


 














 












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