A Peek at Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek Art District

I’ve recently made two trips to Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek Art District (more info). It’s in the Moganshan Road area (Google map), and it’s probably easiest reached by taking the subway (Line 1) to the Shanghai Train Station, then Changshou Road west over Suzhou Creek, then making a right, following the creek north. The road there deadends into a complex of buildings which make up the art district. You’ll see a bunch of graffiti as you head in.

Some of the graffiti in the area:

Tiger Art along Suzhou Creek

Shanghai Graffiti Shanghai Graffiti

The when I went just this month I checked out the work of a an art collective called Liu Dao (六岛), AKA island6. The group likes to mix traditional art forms with newer media, like animated LED displays. Quite interesting (check out their website for examples).

Yesterday I checked out the exhibits at “Things from the gallery warehouse 2” [PDF intro].

> In the Fiction between 1999 & 2000 (2000), Hu Jieming takes on a more universal challenge, the daunting proliferation of media and information engendered by the Internet. Hu’s huge information labyrinth is constructed from screen captures collected from across the Web and network television during the twenty-four-hour period from midnight of December 31, 1999, to midnight of January 1, 2000. It represents the difficulties we all face in navigating through a world where information can be empowering, but only if we can filter through the barrage of useless images and texts that cloud our minds and dull our instincts. Hu asks, “What will we choose to do when we are controlled by information and lose ourselves?”

The TV image maze-cube

Mark Kitto in Art

I liked this one a lot… The piece actually makes up a maze that you can wander through. There are so many screen captures which make its point rather well: there’s no way you can look at it all. You find yourself wanting to just get out before too long. Nicely done.

This other piece, Massage Chairs, while perhaps less aesthetically appealing, answers an engineering question I’ve always had: what, exactly is inside those electric massage chairs?? The massage chairs below were stripped of their padding, the moving parts laid bare, but still powered up and moving.

IMAG0115 IMAG0117 IMAG0119 IMAG0116

> Massage Chairs – Then Edison’s Direct Current was surrendered To the Alternating Current (2003) consists of six massage chairs of various designs – found objects, readymades – stripped of their upholstery. Still in operation, their mechanisms are clearly visible, the cogs and belts moving the various shapes intended to knead and gently pummel the backs of human bodies requiring relaxation. Without their padding and soft surfaces, the chairs themselves are skeletal, strangely anthropomorphic and not unreminiscent of electric chairs. The sounds they emit,
the whirrings and rhythmical clickings echo ominously in the gallery interiors they now occupy, evoking a response that is a far cry from any of the desired effects of massage.

Finally, the pieces at Mr. Iron were really fun and imaginative. It’s that style where sculptures are created out of old scrap metal. Some of them were really amazing, and quite a few are strongly commercial (see the site’s classics section for examples.) My favorite one, already long sold, was a recreation of Giger’s Alien (sorry, it’s a picture of a picture with a cell phone camera, so not very clear):

Giger's Alien, made of scrap

I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m personally most interested in art’s intersection with technology, but there are lots of different styles of art in the Suzhou Creek Art District, so I recommend you check it out, no matter what your interest. A word of warning, though: there’s extensive construction going on right now (2010 World Expo prep?), so it’s quite messy.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I love seeing all the new art emerging. That tiger piece at the Suzhou creek is amazing. The youth of China have always made so much Chinese art for export, when they get awakened in the year of the Tiger to take it to their native lands on public land — wooooooot —- watch out! Awesome rare post, John.

  2. Matthew Stinson Says: February 1, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    The art looks good but the presentation is very Beijing 798-esque. If you didn’t tell me this was Shanghai I’d assume you took a detour during your last Beijing trip 🙂

    (Aside: there seems a rule in China: all art districts will look like 798, all “restored” tourist areas will look like Shanghai’s Xintiandi and Taikang Rd.)

  3. Matthew,

    I wouldn’t know about 798… never been there. But it’s just old warehouses minimally decorated, right?

  4. Wow dude, that looks phenomenal! All of those metal sculptures are crazy. Massage chair joke here. 🙂

    Site redesign looks really nice too. Way more modern. I liked the old one though…

    See you soon buddy.

  5. The Kippies Says: February 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Just old warehouses minimally decorated? tsk tsk tsk. Perhaps in the 90s it was, but now 798 has become a work of art itself. It originally was an old ammunition factory whose various spaces were taken over by artists because it was big and cheap enough to have art studios, but now its been commercialized – I think M-50 on Moganshan Road is actually based off of 798, but 798 is much larger and more developed. There are artsy coffee shops and restaurants, and small stores to buy fun artsy-kitschy stuff, but also lots of large and small art galleries, studios, and meeting places. There is art work scattered all over the grounds (sculptures, “graffiti,” etc..) and there are lots of concerts, art events, and parties that are held there.

    Actually, there are now minimally decorated warehouses even further out in Beijing where starving artists have gone to because 798 has become too expensive for most artist.

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