Eat, drink & shop in Shanghai French Concession

The former French Concession in Shanghai is a large and historical where you will find beautiful colonial architecture, Western-style eateries, cafes and bars as well as glossy shopping malls and independent shops selling fashion, gifts, furniture, design and home accessories.

This is not a comprehensive guide, it is only a rough guide to some of the shops in the area:


IMG_6331 IMG_6228retro revocasa casaIMG_6272IMG_6273 IMG_6189 IMG_6190

2nd row: Retro Revo; 3nd row left: Casa Casa; 3rd row middle & right: Brut Cake; Bottom: Piling Palang


Anfui Lu:

Piling Palang (no.183) – Founded in 2009 by Chinese designer, Deng Bingbing, the colourful objects here are inspired by ancient Chinese symbolic motifs, patterns and shapes. Most of products are skillfully crafted by local craftsmen using ceramic, cloisonné or lacquer, and are infused with contemporary elements to create decorative or functional pieces.

Casa Casa (no. 201) – A furniture store featuring a selection of modern and classic furniture and home accessories from top international designer brands.

Brut Cake (no.232) Founded by Taiwanese designer, Nicole Teng, most of the home accessories here are handmade from recycled materials. There are also reclaimed/re-upholstered furniture and ceramics with a rustic feel. The products and even the shop’s interior feel very Japanese as I could imagine walking into a shop like this in Tokyo’s Yanaka district… hence, to find a shop like this in the middle of Shanghai was a pleasant surprise!

Retro Revo (no.248) is a British company specialises in handmade industrial European and American vintage designs including furniture, lighting, carpets and accessories. Inspired from the Industrial Revolution era, all their products are newly produced by craftsmen outside of China, hence, most of them come with hefty price tags.


anfu lusunflower cafeIMG_6289IMG_6188P1080459

Top: Baker & Spice cafe; 2nd row left: Sunflour bakery & cafe; 2nd row right: La Mer cafe; Bottom row left: Vinyl Ganesh; Bottom row middle: Wagas


There are also several bakeries/ cafe on this road including Baker & Spice (no.195) and Sunflour Bakery & cafe (no.322). Located not far away is Wagas (7 Dong Hu Rd), a popular cafe chain which also owns Baker & Spice. To be honest, I find these Western bakeries and cafes in Shanghai pretty pricey while the food is just mediocre. I couldn’t help thinking that in the nearby cities like Hong Kong or Taipei, I could get better quality food at much cheaper prices.

Vinyl Ganesh (No 5, 438 Shanxi Nan Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu) is another relaxing and comfortable cafe that has a Taiwanese vibe and lots of books available for browsing and reading. The service was pleasant and the coffee was not bad but priced between 40-60 RMB, the coffees are pricier than similar cafes in London, Hong Kong and even Tokyo! I am not sure how much locals earn in Shanghai, but hanging out in cafes seem like an extravagant activities here!


P1080413IMG_6240IMG_6497P1080415 P1080422song fangIMG_6230IMG_6226

Top left, middle & 2nd row left: Shanghai Lan-Lan Chinese handprinted blue nankeen; Bottom left: Song Fang Maison de the; bottom middle: Madame Mao’s Dowry


On Fumin Lu, there is a retro gift shop, Madame Mao’s Dowry (no.207) that sells propaganda posters, memorabilia and homeware from the Mao period, along with contemporary fashion and jewellery from local and international designers.

In the evening, my friend took me to Dr Wine (no.177), a 2-storey chic French wine bar for drinks and snacks one evening. The place was packed with expats, and although the wine and cheese was good, I found the noise level and smoke (smoking is not banned in Shanghai) quite unbearable, hence we did not stay long there.

Along Julu Lu, there are many independent fashion shops, including a few interesting menswear shops. There is an interesting Russian/literature-theme cafe on this road called La Mer (no.677), own and run by a friendly Chinese lady who spent 20 years living in Moscow. Although the ambience is spacious and relaxing, I found the service slow and patchy. But thanks to the hospitable owner, I was able to explore the beautiful colonial building (now home of the Literature club, which I will write about on the next blog entry) behind the cafe.

Other interesting shops in the area include:

Shanghai Lan-Lan Chinese handprinted blue nankeen (no.24 Lane, 637 Chang Le Road) is well hidden in a small lane off the quiet Changle Road. There is a pleasant garden outside of the 2-storey old villa, and once inside, you will find a big showroom full of handprinted blue nankeen products. The traditional dying technique uses a starch-resist method, indigo dye and cotton fabrics to produce primitive but artistic textiles that can be turned into clothing, fashion accessories, soft home furnishings as well as wall hangings. The sales woman was not very friendly initially, it was only when I showed interest in purchasing and asked her for the prices (most of the prices are not displayed for some reason) that she became friendlier! The products here are not cheap but they are unique and of high quality, hence, I ended up buying a few items for myself and as gifts. Next to the shop’s showroom is Shanghai’s Hand-printed Blue Batik Museum founded by an old Japanese woman, Kubo Masa, and it records the revival of this traditional Chinese craftsmanship.


Spin (360 Kangding Rd, near Shaanxi Bei Lu) Founded in 2004 by art director Gary Wang, Spin is an art gallery featuring beautiful, minimalist and reasonably-priced pottery, designed and made in-house.


Triple Major (25 Shaoxing Lu) is a 4-storey conceptual fashion/lifestyle store that sells quirky fashion and accessories by independent designers/labels such as  Daniel Palillo, Lazy Oaf, Henrik Vibskov, and emerging local talents. The shop also sell Japanese ceramics, magazines and books published by independent publishers. The founder, Ritchie Chan, is a Hong Kong native who used to study in L.A. and this shop in Shanghai is his second outlet after his first in Beijing and an online outlet.


Song Fang Maison de Thé (227 Yongjia Lu) is a 2-storey tea house set up by a Parisian Florence Samson 10 years ago. It is hard to miss the bold blue graphic banner from the exterior, and once inside, you will find this cool graphics being used as tea containers and as gift packaging. As much as I like the graphics, I find the gifts sets quite pricey, but if you want to bring back souvenir to impress family and friends, then this place has some good options. The tea house is located on the first floor.


IMG_6542 IMG_6279IMG_6334IMG_6468IMG_6234IMG_6236 IMG_6383 IMG_6237

Top left: Cold noodles at Noodle Bull; Top right: steamed fish head with chillies at Guyi; 2nd row left: steam bun; 2nd row middle: Xinjiang style hash brown at Xibo; 2nd row right, Main & bottom right: a noodle bar; Bottom left: the famous Shanghainese xiaolongbao


While walking around the French Concession, I was hoping to find some authentic and ‘hygienic-looking’ street stalls selling local fares, but this proved to be a very difficult task. It seems easier to find croissants than dumplings in this area! Finally one morning, I stumbled upon a few food shops near the corner of Xiangyang Lu & Changle Lu (with many locals queuing outside) selling a variety of steamed buns, dumplings, scallion/sesame pancakes and sheng jian bao (fried buns/dumplings with pork and broth inside) etc. I had a sesame pancake and a vegetable bun, both were tasty and a lot cheaper than the bakeries/cafes down the road.

At lunch time, I found a small noodle bar (not sure of its English name) on Yanqing Road, the place has a rustic/industrial feel to it and it serves handmade noodles (served with kimchi) at reasonable prices.

The Art deco Ferguson Lane (376 Wukang Lu, near Tai’an Lu) is the home to several coffee shops, wine bars, beauty shops, fashion boutiques, art gallery, patisserie and restaurants.. I met my friends at the spacious Azul Tapas Lounge, a restaurant owned by the popular Peruvian restaurateur/chef, Eduardo Vargas. The dishes on the menu has Spanish, South American, and Mediterranean influences, but I did not detect the Spanish influences in the dishes we ordered nor did I think they were in tapas sizes either! However, the quality of food and wine was very good, and the service was fairly efficient, so overall we had an enjoyable meal there.

Guyi (87 Fumin Lu) is an institution in Shanghai serving Hunan dishes (often spicy) and it is very popular among locals and expats. We had to queue for 10 minutes even though it was almost 9pm when we arrived. However, the food was worth the wait, and the steamed fish head with chilies (see above) is a must (even for the squeamish).

If you are looking for something unique, then Xibo (3F, 85 Changshu Lu) is a good choice as it serves Uyghur cuisine from the Xinjiang region of China. The contemporary setting and view attract many expats, and the food is interesting and tasty. The restaurant also donates 25% of its profits to support charitable organisations in western China.


tian zi fang tian zi fangtian zi fangtian zi fangIMG_6359tian zi fang tian zi fangtian zi fangtian zi fangtian zi fang

Shops in Tianzifang


Similar to Xintiandi (which I found very commercial during my last visit, hence I skipped it this time), Tianzifang (off Taikang Road) has been transformed into a popular tourist destination from the regeneration of a former residential district. The neighborhood was originally built in the 1930s as a Shikumen ( a traditional 2/3-storey Shanghainese building) residential district. It was saved from demolition in 2006 thanks to the help of local residents and business owners.

Now the maze-like area has more than 200 small businesses from shops to cafes, bars, restaurants and art galleries etc. Although this area is very touristy and busy, it is quite interesting to spend a few hours getting lost here. There are many interesting shops selling fashion, arts and crafts, stationery and vintage/retro objects.


tian zi fangIMG_6352 alan chantian zi fangtian zi fangtian zi fang

Main & bottom left: Taste shop space; 2nd row left: traditional Chinese dolls at Old Shanghai; 2nd row right: Alan Chan creations; Bottom middle: Sky music box


The highlights of the area are as follows:

Sky Music Box (35 Tianzifang, Lane 248 Taikang Lu, near Sinan Lu) is a small shop/museum (accessible via some steep & narrow staircase) that sells and exhibits a wide range of handcrafted (some slightly kitsch) music boxes. It is a very unique place!

Old Shanghai (I am not sure of the English name of this shop… but it’s at Room 112, no.3, 200 Taikang Lu) – I wanted to buy every item in this shop! I love the 94 year old Shanghainese illustrator/ comic artist, He Youzhi‘s illustrations of old Shanghai. Not only you will find his comic books, post card sets but there are different merchandise that feature his wonderful illustrations. On the first floor, there are also traditional Chinese dolls on display/ for sale.

Taste shop space (Room 105, Building: 3rd, Lane 210, Taikang Rd) – Founded by photographer Viko Wu and her Japanese fashion designer husband, Yutaka  last year. Taste shop is a lifestyle shop that sells homeware, furniture, antiques, lighting and fashion accessories. The shop also stock many handcrafted designs including Futagami and Eclectic by Tom Dixon.


IMG_6372 cafe dancafe dancafe danIMG_6371

Top right, bottom left & middle: Cafe Dan; Bottom right: interesting Korean snack


Cafe Dan (no.41, Lane 248 Taikang Lu) – a well-known cafe in Tianzifang that is owned and run by a Japanese, Taka, who is quite obsessed with coffee. I love the quiet/rustic style and relaxing atmosphere, but again, there is a price to pay for this… around £10-12 for a cup of coffee and cafe, which I find extraordinary expensive for a rustic-looking cafe!


P1080493 IMG_6347P1080500IMG_6345 IMG_6348IMG_6346IMG_6344IMG_6458

The exterior and interior of Liuli China Museum; 3rd row left: cafe Xiao San Tang; 3rd row right: The shop also sells the Shuriken magnets from Taiwan; Bottom right: MoCA Shop at People’s park


Liuli China Museum (25 Taikang Road) is a huge 4-storey glass building located right opposite Tianzifang. Founded in 2006 by by renowned glass artist and sculptor Loretta Hui-shan Yang and her husband Zhang Yi, the building not only houses a museum dedicated to glassware from China (all eras) and the rest the world, but there is also a Xiao San Tang and a shop that sells glassware, design and craft objects and books etc.

Another museum shop that is worth checking out is the MoCa shop at the entrance of People’s Park, 231 Nanjing West Road. I tried to get into The Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MOCA) on Saturday (bad idea!) but gave up immediately when I saw a queue outside in the rain. However, I quite enjoyed browsing in their small shop by the park entrance where you can find design objects created by local designers and design/museum exhibition-related books.


10 corso como10 corso como10 corso como10 corso como 10 corso como10 corso comomarcel wanders10 corso como  P1080561 marcel wanders

10 Corso Como at Wheelock Square; 3rd row middle, right and bottom right: Marcel Wanders’ exhibition at the gallery; Bottom left: the exterior of nearby shopping mall


Surrounding the famous Jian’an Temple on the West Nanjing Road are highrises and shopping malls (what contradictions!), and one of new design destinations in the area is 10 Corso Como (North Annex, Wheelock Square 1717 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Huashan Lu, Jing’an) which opened at the end of last year. I am sure most people who are interested in fashion/design would not have missed the institution, 10 Corso Como when visiting Milan. Opened in 1990 by former fashion editor Carla Sozzani, this gallery/lifestyle & fashion concept store was the forefront of its kind, years before Colette in Paris and Dover Street market in London. I have previously visited their former shop in Tokyo (in collaboration with Comme des Garçons) and their original branch in Seoul, but this new shop in Shanghai is bigger (2,500sqm) than I expected. The 4-storey mecca (notice that 4th floor on the map above has been renamed as ‘5th’ due to Chinese superstition!) designed by Kris Ruhs not only sells fashion, jewellery, beauty products, art and design objects, books but there are also patisserie, café, restaurant and gallery.

Honestly, I was quite disappointed with this store because it is too glossy and ‘perfect’, obviously it is targeting the wealthy and local hipsters/creatives with growing spending power, yet it is formulaic without surprises… This is not what I expect from a successful brand that has changed the way we shop today.


IMG_6285IMG_6387IMG_6389IMG_6390 IMG_6391IMG_6385

Top left: Prada shop on Nan Jing Xi Lu; the rest: shops at the basement of Reel Mall


In the nearby Reel Mall (1601 Nanjing West Rd, Jing’an), it is home to many international luxury fashion brands, but the more interesting (in my opinion) shops are hidden in its basement near the popular food court. I would not have found this place if it wasn’t for the host of my apt because it is quite hidden. But there are many small independent shops selling fashion, jewellery and design objects made by local designers, and one of them is wtf* bikes, a local bicycle brand that sells very cool-looking bike frames and rims.


shanghai propaganda poster art centre Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre Shanghai propaganda poster art centreShanghai propaganda poster art centre IMG_6261Shanghai propaganda poster art centreShanghai propaganda poster art centreShanghai propaganda poster art centreIMG_6265 Shanghai propaganda poster art centre

Shanghai Propanganda poster art centre


Aside from shopping, dining and drinking in the former French Concession, there are also many galleries and museums and one of my favourite in the area is The Shanghai Propangda poster art center (Rm BOC, Basement, Block B, No.868 Huashan Road) hidden inside a residential block. (Tip: ask the security guard at the front entrance and he will give you a card with a small map that will direct you to the entrance). This gallery is really one of a kind and you will need at least an hour to go through the vast collection even though the gallery itself is not very big. These propaganda posters are very rare now because most of them were destroyed due to political changes over the years. The posters are important documentations that record the history of China in 20th century, and not surprisingly Mao is the key figure. Aside from posters and memorabilia, there are also school text books and magazines, but most surprisingly, some of the magazine covers (and some posters) reveal a very open-minded/ Westernised China where female nudity was acceptable… how fascinating! Next to the gallery is a small shop where you can find reproductions of the posters, books and souvenir.


shanghai museum of arts & craftsIMG_6300 shanghai museum of arts & craftsshanghai museum of arts & craftsshanghai museum of arts & craftsshanghai museum of arts & craftsshanghai museum of arts & crafts shanghai museum of arts & crafts

Shanghai museum of arts & crafts


Located inside a beautiful French Renaissance mansion, the Shanghai museum of arts & crafts (79 Fenyang Rd, near Taiyuan Rd) could be so much better… The museum showcases exquisite jade, wood, ivory, bamboo carvings, paper-cutting art work, lacquer ware, porcelain, embroidery, textiles and traditional clay dolls etc. There are also artists at work where visitors can see the production processes, yet when I was there, the artists/craftsmen were not doing much (one was even napping) and the display lacked information, the museum certainly needs a better curator… Even the display in the shop’s showroom lacks aesthetic appeal, it reminds me some touristy souvenir shops except for the high prices.


kunst lichtkunst lichtkunst lichtIMG_6426kunst licht kunst licht

Kunst. Licht Photo Art Gallery 


I stumbled upon Kunst. Licht Photo Art Gallery (210, North Ulumuqi Road, Jing’an) and I immediately felt very relaxed as I stepped into this 2-room and rather understated gallery dedicated to photography, which features established and emerging artists from China and abroad. The building itself is also quite interesting and has some art deco architectural features that compliment the colourful and bold photographs on the white walls.


Shanghai’s creative & design hubs

Until a few days ago, I did not realise that Shanghai was officially named as the 7th UNESCO City of Design in 2012. And what does it all mean? Well, here is the official description:

It is designed to promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing world. The cities which apply to the network seek to promote their local creative scene; they share interest in UNESCO’s mission towards cultural diversity. This network of networks is structured around seven themes: Literature, Film, Music, Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Media arts, and Gastronomy.

The city has been investing heavily in the creative and design industry in recent years, and as a result, there are now over 200 creative hubs scattered around the city including: M50 (50 Moganshan Lu, near Xi Suzhou Lu, Putuo), 800 Show Creative Park (800 Changde Rd, Jing’an), 2577 Creative Garden (2577 Longhua Road, Xuhui), Red Town (570 Huaihai Road W, Changning) and the list goes on.

Since I was there for only 4/5 days, I picked a few to see what this ‘City of design’ has to offer:


Shanghai 1933Shanghai 1933 Shanghai 1933Shanghai 1933Shanghai 1933Shanghai 19331933 shanghai P1080788Shanghai 1933 Shanghai 1933 1933 shanghai

1933 Shanghai


1933 Shanghai (29 Shajing Lu, near Haining Lu, Hongkou district)

This is probably the most famous creative hubs in the city because of its unusual background and architecture. It was once a cattle slaughterhouse. Located in the historic Hongkou District above the Bund, the building (also known as “Old Millfun”) is not that easily accessible by public transport. Yet when you are there, the Art deco and maze-like architecture will blow you away.

Designed originally by British architect and built in 1933 by Chinese developers with British concrete, it survived demolition and is the last of three left in the world (the other two were in London and the US). After the RMB100 million restoration in 2008, the formal slaughterhouse has been used as a creative hub for architectural and design firms, with a few restaurants, cafes and design shops.

Before my arrival, I was expecting the place to be buzzing, but it turned out to be surprisingly quiet with some local visitors and ‘tourists’ like myself. There were only a few shops on the ground floor and a few restaurants that were opened, otherwise the place was eerily empty.

I spoke to my local friend about this and she told me that many Shanghainese believe that the building has ‘bad spirit’ because of all dead animals that have been slaughtered here. Apparently, many companies moved in but left soon after, hence, now the place only has a few offices and is mostly used as a backdrop for photo shoots.

I don’t blame the Shanghainese for being superstitious because as I was walking around, I did find the place rather creepy. I later found out that there are religious (Buddhist) elements in this building, i.e. all the windows were built facing west, directing the slaughtered animals towards the land for reincarnation. Yet in terms of architecture, it is an outstanding piece of work, so it is worth visiting if you are interested in architecture.

N.B. The restaurant, Noodle Bull within the building offers inexpensive and MSG-free Taiwanese noodles, it is a good lunch option.


P1080747 P1080753P1080772the commercial house 1913the commercial house 1913the commercial house 1913P1080737 the commercial house 1913 manbomanboP1080738manbo manbo P1080736

The commercial house 1913 & Manbo ceramics shop & cafe


The commercial house 1913 (160 Ha’erbin Rd, Hongkou district)

Only about 5 minutes walk from the Old Millfun is another new creative hub (opened in 2011) with a offices, shops, restaurants and cafes. The British style building once belonged to the British company, Hutchison Whampoa and first started construction between 1912-13. In 1935, the trade office building was completed and during the hundred years, more additional constructions were added including a large ice storage.

After almost a year of restoration by the cultural and creative development enterprise Dobe, the 6th creative hub has been restored to create commercial spaces for rental. Yet apart from 2 small pottery shops including Manbo on the ground floor, the other floors didn’t appear to be occupied, so I didn’t bother exploring further. The building and surrounding area was extremely quiet, which I found kinda odd for the highly-dense Shanghai.

Manbo is a wonderful ceramics shop/cafe selling ceramic tableware and home accessories made by young local craftsmen/artists/designers. The shop’s name means ‘slow stop’ in Chinese, so it aims to promote slow living and the ceramics here also reflect this attitude and quality.


P1080505 P1080506P1080504P1080563P1080566P1080567P1080571 IMG_6419

Top row & 2nd row left: The Bridge 8; 2nd row middle & right, 3rd and 4th row: Jing An Design Centre/ Central POD


The Bridge 8 (8-10 Jian Guo Zhong Road, Xuhui district)

The Bridge 8 used to be the abandoned factory buildings of the Shanghai Automotive Brake Company. The site has been restored and opened in 2004, occupying over an area of 20,000 square meters in the city centre and is one of most well-known creative hubs in the Shanghai.

The notable architectural feature of this complex is its modern bridge that connects the two buildings. Yet the complex’s most highly regarded aspects are its energy saving systems of solar photovoltaic power generation system, solar water heating system and ground source heat pump air-conditioning system.

There are over 70 international creative enterprises located here, covering the fields of architecture (including one of my favourite architects, David Chipperfield) and interior design, fashion design, advertising, and Film & TV production.

Unfortunately, I got a bit lost and only arrived early in the evening, and so I didn’t get the opportunity to explore the site properly. I am guessing that the site would be more lively during the day.


Jing An design centre/ Central POD (595 Wu Ding Road Jing’an District)

Located not far from the Jing-an temple and the busy shopping district, this new ( since 2011) 3-storey building is a co-working creative and commercial space. Like the other hubs mentioned above, this building was also converted from a former industrial space built between 1930-70 and has been carefully restored by the architectural firm, a_a&d. ( though I read from another source that the building was once a bath house).

The building stands out for its environmental and sustainable aspects, i.e rooftop farming, natural air circulation, usage of recycled materials and low water usage. I love the bright and spacious space, and the use of mosaic tiles as flooring. Although there are only a few offices that are being occupied at the moment, the SeeSaw cafe on the ground floor is a very popular hangout amongst expats and locals.


After exploring some of these creative hubs and seeing less than 30% occupants (except for The Bridge 8), it made me wonder if there is a need for over 200 of them? The concept of restoring heritage buildings into creative spaces is viable if there is a demand, without the demand, these hubs are completely pointless. I am also wondering about the rental prices, are these hubs affordable to young designers, artists and new start-ups? Is this the reason why these hubs are not being utilised to their full potential? Whatever the reasons, I hope many of these hubs will not be abandoned when I next visit the city.


Shanghai: Beyond the façade

IMG_6503P1080656 IMG_6528

A more authentic Shanghai can be seen near Lu Xun Park in the Hongkou distric


I first (and last) went to Shanghai 12 years ago to visit a friend who had just moved from NYC to the city. I had always wanted to go to Shanghai before the trip, so I was quite excited. Yet the newly-developing city was not what I expected at all, I found the city crowded and chaotic, the people rude, pretentious and pushy (physically and verbally), the service appalling and the food very greasy. I did not want to return to this city despite many friends have since moved there (and left) and had invited me over, but I did not budge.

When I finally decided to revisit this city again, I didn’t want the trip to be tarnished by my previous experience and was determined to look beyond the ‘surface’. I turned down my friend’s invitation to stay at hers (only to discover later that she lives only 2 blocks away from where I was staying), instead I rented a small studio in the historical Simingcun ( where many famous locals used to reside), hoping for a more authentic experience.


shanghai P1080399shanghaiP1080401IMG_6185P1080403 IMG_6218P1080617shanghaishanghai

Living like a local in the Simingcun in the former French Concession


Simingcun turns out to be an extremely interesting and authentic ‘village’ in the former French Concession right across from the Shanghai Exhibition centre. Though I was hardly impressed when I first arrived in the early evening. First of all, the taxi driver insisted that it would be difficult to find the place, even though I had already provided him with as much info as possible. Then when he finally found it, the lane was very dimly lit with trash here and there, and it didn’t smell too good either. Even when I made it to the block, I had trouble finding the light switch as I climbed up the steep and narrow staircase. The neighbours were a bit suspicious of me too, but thanks to the next door neighbour and his torch, I was able to let myself into the apartment.

Before entering the apartment, I was starting to regret my decision, but once inside, I felt a sense of relief. The studio was nicely furnished with modern facilities and it seemed like a world apart from the neighbours’ apartments. Over the next few days, I started to enjoy my ‘local’ experience… watching the lady in the opposite block hanging her laundry on the rooftop, smelling food as my neighbour was cooking away in the kitchen next door and best of all, listening to them play mahjong early Sunday morning (I probably wouldn’t be too happy if I was living there long term).


shanghaishanghaishanghai traffic  shanghai shanghaishanghaiP1080447 P1080452


I usually prefer to walk or take public transport when I am visiting a city. But Shanghai is a big metropolis, and after spending almost 2 days walking around the former French Concession, I had to look for alternative options when I ventured beyond it.

The two major threats of walking in this city are: pollution and the high probability of being hit by cars when crossing the streets! For the pollution, I had prepared 3 masks for it, and although it was not as bad as Beijing, I still had to wear a mask when crossing busy roads.

But the act of crossing the streets in Shanghai is more hazardous than the high pollution level. Even when the light is green (for pedestrians), cars, trucks and mopeds would ignore it and drive on. My mother once had to ask a policeman for help as she was unable to cross the street during her visit a few years ago. My advice is to act quick, take the opportunity when you see it or follow the locals. It takes years to master the skill, so the locals have more expertise in this area, though occasionally, I have noticed some being completely oblivion to the crazy traffic around them. Hence, if you can’t run fast enough, then avoid crossing the streets altogether!

The metro is an easy, cheap and safe option, though a taxi driver warned me not to use it during rush hours and to be careful of pickpocketing. Overall, I was quite impressed with the service. Lastly, taxis are fine if with the exact address, but the problem is do with the heavy traffic as you can be stuck in traffic jams for ages, so it is best to avoid taking them during rush hours.


P1080404 P1080615IMG_6216P1080405P1080701IMG_6220 P1080662

Shanghai is a vast open-air launderette…


Unsurprisingly, Shanghai has changed a great deal since I last visited. Back then, the city was like an immature and insecure child entering puberty, searching for its identity while trying hard to be cool. Now, the teenager has grown up and is more confident and comfortable with its new-found identity. The city notably has more high-rise, glossy shopping malls, Western-style cafes (selling expensive coffees at around £3-4 per cup) and expats (esp. French ones). These days, it is easier to find a boulangerie selling croissants than a local eatery selling xiao long bao in the former French Concession! Yet the glossiness and Western influences seem ‘superficial’ to me, as I believe the soul of the city can only be found on the streets where locals and ordinary Shanghainese live, eat, work and play.

Drying laundry in the public is a common sight in Shanghai. It is quite amusing to see underwear hanging from above while walking down the streets. And sometimes you can even see poultry being hung or shoes being dried on the pavements. All these local traits may be the norm to them, but to outsiders, they are quite fascinating.


P1080418 P1080433IMG_6342IMG_6221IMG_6457IMG_6227 IMG_6340


However, I couldn’t help but notice the widening gap between the rich and the poor… as I was walking along Nanjing Road West one day, I saw a long queue outside of the newly-opened Old Navy (I could hardly believe it as it is considered to be a ‘cheap’ sister brand of Gap in the U.S. where I used to buy t-shirts for the gym). While my jaw was dropping, I suddenly noticed a beggar in front of me searching for goodies from the trash bin (see above), which was such a contrast from what was happening across the road.

Welcome to the new China.


IMG_6553 IMG_6496IMG_6217P1080402IMG_6461P1080671 IMG_6535 shanghaiIMG_6233 IMG_6536

 Street vendors and local shops


On the surface, the young and wealthier Shanghainese are more fashion-conscious and well-groomed, and they are happy to embrace their new Westernised lifestyle. Yet underneath the branded labels, their mannerism and behaviour is still very ‘Chinese’ (yes, they still spit in front of you as if you don’t exist and would push you out of their way while queuing inside an upscale cafe). Having said that, it has vastly improved compared to 12 years ago, back then, it was much worse.

People can also be very curious/ nosy/ suspicious, especially when I stopped to take photographs on the streets. I don’t know if it is paranoia, but I felt the need to be careful when taking photographs on the streets, so I ended up using my iphone instead as it was not as obvious.


IMG_6393 IMG_6239P1080653IMG_6429 IMG_6428IMG_6293P1080660 IMG_6243

The Chinese is a nation that loves food… the ‘suspicious-looking’ policeman in the last photo was actually eating a durian on a modped!


Food is crucial in Chinese people’s lives, so walking down the streets, it would be hard to avoid seeing people queuing for local delicacies, buying fruits and vegetables or eating on the pavements. Due to the recent food safety scares in China, I was quite hesitate to buy from the street vendors or stalls except for vegetable steamed buns and sesame pancakes. Other times, I would look for food courts inside malls where the hygiene is better and yet it is still possible to find authentic and not over-priced local dishes.


IMG_6284IMG_6421IMG_6411IMG_6335P1080514 IMG_6373post boxPOST BOXP1080674P1080619IMG_6244 P1080411


Although my overall impression of Shanghai has changed a lot on this trip and I enjoyed it much more than my previous one, I still have reservations in regards to many issues hidden behind the curtain. Even with practical issues like the internet, the speed was slow and unstable, which I original thought was a connection problem in the apartment, but then later I was told by my friend that this is a common problem everywhere. And banning social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Youtube is quite pointless because there are still ways to get around it…

Another issue is the rising costs of living here, rental costs is rising and eating out in Western-style restaurants and cafes could cost more than Hong Kong or even London. Yet the prices seem to drop drastically at eateries catered for the locals, so do the inflated prices reflect the real value of the products and services?

Shanghai is changing rapidly and I am sure when I next return to Shanghai, it will be quite different again. Will it become a more mature and elegant adult? I guess we shall wait and see.




Design Shanghai 2014

Shanghai exhibition centre Shanghai exhibition centre Shanghai exhibition centreShanghai exhibition centreShanghai exhibition centreshanghai exhibition centre

The exterior of Shanghai exhibition centre


For my annual trip to Asia this year, I decided to skip Japan and opted for Singapore to visit Maison et objet Asia ( the first show outside of Paris) and Singapore design week. But I also wanted to make a trip to China to find out more about their current design scene… and I came across Design Shanghai 2014, which coincided with my dates, hence I decided to check out the event.

Before my trip, I found out that the event would be organised by Media 10 Ltd, a British company that organises 100% design, Ideal Home show and Clerkenwell Design Week etc. And judging from the show’s partners and collaborations ( and the involvement of many international-renowned designers and architects), it assured me that the event would be more international than local and of a certain standard.

And then I was in for some surprises, both good and bad…


Shanghai exhibition centreShanghai exhibition centreShanghai exhibition centreshanghai exhibition centre Shanghai exhibition centreShanghai exhibition centreShanghai exhibition centre Shanghai exhibition centre

The interior of the Shanghai exhibition centre


My first surprise came when I arrived at the venue, which turned out to be conveniently located close to where I was staying (which was not planned) near the Former French Concession area. I was quite stunned when I saw this massive Soviet-style building/ complex, it was only later that I found out about its history. It was built in 1955 as the Sino-Soviet Friendship Building to commemorate the alliance between China and the Soviet Union, and was once the tallest building in Shanghai.

My second surprise came when I was inside the building, not only everything is opulent, but each room is completely different in style (slightly schizophrenic), while showcasing incredible architectural craftsmanship (very Soviet). I could not help but be amazed by the detail of the ceilings, columns and lighting etc, and was completely distracted from the exhibitors…


design shanghai 2014 design shanghai 2014design shanghai 2014design shanghaiP1080322

Top left & right: Design talks by Sharon Leece, Editor at large, AD China, British/Hong Kong designer, Michael Young and Rossana Hu from Neri & Hu


My third surprise came when I started to wander around the exhibition halls, all the brands seemed surprisingly familiar… it turned out that probably 60% (my rough estimate) of the designers/ brands exhibiting were British, and the rest was split between other international brands like Alessi or Flos and local Chinese ones. Judging from the name of the show, I expected to see more Chinese brands, but this was not the case. I later spoke to a British lady was one of the organisers, and was told that the show aimed to introduce high-end British designer brands to the Chinese market. And due to the craftsmanship involved, the designs could not be easily copied either. She later laughed and said that if I was there to look for Chinese designs, then I was at the wrong show. Oops.


X + Q P1080339X + QP1080350P1080545Pearl lam

Top left & main: Ceramics at X+Q; Top right: Shanghai skyscrapper candles by Naihan Li; Bottom middle: a & a; Bottom right: Pearl Lam gallery


I guess it wasn’t completely at a loss, as I did find the design seminars quite informative and interesting esp. the talk on Chinese design trends by Sharon Leece, the Editor at large of AD China. She spoke of the retail and interior trends in China and the new creative/ design hubs in cities like Chengdu, Dali and Guangzhou, which I did not know before the show. I also attended another seminar by Hong Kong based British designer, Michael Young and Rosanna Hu from Neri & Hu talking about their recent projects in China.


kaolinkaolin kaolinkaolinkaolinkaolin

 Ceramic work at Kaolin


The show featured mostly high-end and craft-based designs, and one of my favourite Chinese brands there was Kaolin. Kaolin is a creative studio, founded by a ceramic artist, a designer and a media expert in 2012, which aims to promote young domestic ceramic talents to a wider international audience. The ceramic designs are quite minimalistic but beautifully crafted, using traditional techniques and heritage but in a contemporary way.


pusu P1080538Design republicP1080340P1080341Design republic design shanghai 2014

Top left: Pusu Lifetstyle; 2nd row left and bottom left: Neri & Hu; 2nd row middle & right: Zizaoshe; Bottom right: a bamboo forest installation


Neri & Hu is one of the most well-known and respected architectural design practice working in China today. The practice not only work on architectural projects, but they also design and produce furniture, lighting and tableware; and founded the high-end furniture and lifestyle store, Design Republic, one the first to introduce international designer products and furniture to China.

Neri & Hu products are hand made and often inspired by traditional and everyday objects found on the streets of Shanghai. Heritage, craftsmanship and materials are important elements in their designs (see above), and it is no surprise that their designs are one of the best representatives in the contemporary Chinese design world today.


design shanghai 2014 design shanghai 2014design shanghai 2014 design shanghai 2014

Crowds outside and inside of the exhibition centre in the weekends, and exhibitors had to use tapes to keep the crowds away


Finally, my last surprise took place when I tried to return to the show for a talk on Saturday. If I hadn’t got my badge on the first day (even then, I had to queue for 15 minutes), I probably would have ended up queuing all day long to get in! The massive queue outside went around the block, and it was almost impossible to walk towards the seminar room ( which happened to be situated at the end of one wing). The crowds were pushing, shoving and snapping away regardless of other people around them. When I was trying to push my way out of the building via the narrow passage lined with exhibition booths, all the booths had tapes in front of them to keep the crowds away. It was something that I have never seen before at any trade or design shows!

The problem with the show was not to do with the quality of the designs or exhibitors, but the fact that the organisers did not separate the trade or press people from the public. Usually the trade or press people would get access to the show or event a day or two before the public, it seemed rather odd to use a ‘free and open to all’ tactic because the show was completely chaotic and out of control in the weekend. This arrangement also made it difficult for trade people to enquire information from the designers or companies (even on the first day). Meanwhile, I also received rude treatment by one of Chinese exhibitors when I tried to pick up a business card, probably because he thought I was just a random person from the public. This was really the last thing I expected from exhibitors who were there to ‘sell’ their work. And from what I saw, the majority of public there were not really interested in design, all they cared about was a free event where they could hang out, snap away in order to share on Weibo and seek freebies.

This is China after all, applying the British/international standard would not work here. Perhaps the organisers need more research into the behavioural patterns of the local Chinese before attempting to sell design to the Chinese market. I hope they will learn from this lesson and avoid the mishaps next year.


London winter 2013/14 art & design exhibitions

Serpentine sackler galleryserpentine gallery paul klee

Main and bottom left: The new Serpentine Sackler Gallery designed by Zaha Hadid Architects opened in Sept 2013; Bottom right: Paul Klee at Tate Modern


I intended to publish this a while ago, but I have been traveling and it took longer than I expected to complete. It is a recap of the art and design exhibitions that took place or are still taking place in London this winter and spring. Here are 5 of my favourites:


Paul Klee – Making visible at Tate Modern (until 9th March) I used to love Klee‘s work when I was doing A-level art, mostly because of his use of colours. And this retrospective reaffirmed me that the artist was a true master of colour. This exhibition is huge ( with 17 rooms) and will take about 2 hours, but it is really worth the time as we see how the artist developed his ideas, techniques and style. Aside of his masterful use of colour, it was his inventiveness, playfulness, and humanity that made him one of the greatest Modernist artists.


Shunga: sex and humour in Japanese art 1600-1900 at the British Museum (ended) It is hard to imagine that the repressed Japanese society was once so open about sex and pleasure. This exhibition explored the boundary between art and pornography, and although many Shunga paintings and prints are very explicit, they are also highly artistic, humourous and sometimes rather ridiculous. I love the woodblocked prints and the beautiful detailed textiles/ fashion worn by the people in the paintings. I did not find the work seedy at all, instead I found the exhibition entertaining and absolutely mesmerising.


v & a v & a

‘Travelling to the Wonderland’ installation, by Xu Bing at the Victoria and Albert Museum


Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 – 1900 at the V & A Museum (ended) I really wished that I had more time at this outstanding exhibition which showcased  masterpieces from China spanning over 1200 years. I have been to exhibitions on ancient Chinese paintings and art museums in China as well as Taiwan, but this had to be one of the best that I have ever visited. The curation was top-notch and it offered insight into China’s history, culture, social movements, economy, religions and artistic styles. At the exhibition, we could see how the Chinese art and culture influenced the Japanese and Koreans, and perhaps we need to re-evalute the word, ‘copy’.

A miniature landscape was also installed by Chinese artist, Xu Bing in the John Madejski Garden. Inspired by a classic Chinese fable, The Peach Blossom Spring, Xu collected authentic stones from different places in China and made them into a layered mountainscape, accompanied by light effects and sounds of birds and insects.


Dice Kayek Mounir Fatmi  Nasser Al SalemPascal ZoghbiLaurent Mareschal

Top left: ‘Istanbul Contrast’ by Dice Kayek; Top right: Mounir Fatmi’s video installation; Bottom left: Nasser Al Salem; Bottom middle: Pascal Zoghbi; Bottom right: Laurent Mareschal’s ‘Beiti’


The Jameel Prize 3 at the V & A Museum (until 21st April) The Jameel Prize is an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. The exhibition showcases some extraordinary work by talented artists and designers working today. Laurent Mareschal‘s ‘Beiti’ (spice tiles) is quite mind-blowing, and equally impressive is furniture and product designer, Nada Debs‘s ‘Concrete Carpet’ that fuses Middle Eastern craftsmanship with Japanese minimalism. Arabic calligraphy is creatively used in a lot of the work, including ‘Modern Times: A History of the Machine’, a video installation by Mounir Fatmi, and graphical work by calligrapher, Nasser al-Salem and type designer, Pascal Zoghbi. The winner was awarded to the Turkish fashion label Dice Kayek established by sisters Ece and Ayşe Ege for their ‘Istanbul Contrast’, a collection of garments that evoke Istanbul’s architectural and artistic heritage.


Only in EnglandAndy WarholDerek Jarmanandy warhol

Top left: Only in England: Photographys by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr at the Science Museum; Top middle and main: Andy Warhol at the Photographer’s gallery; Top right: Derek Jarman: Pandemonium at King’s College London.


Only in England: Photographys by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr at the Science Museum (until 16th March) I have not been to the Science Museum for a few years, and was surprised to learn that this documentary photography exhibition is being held here. It turns out that Media Space is the museum’s new gallery, which aims to explore photography, art and science.

This exhibition is wonderful… it is nostalgic, humourous, humane, sentimental, quirky and ultimately, it is a celebration of Britishness. The black and white photographs capture England during the 1960s and 70s, and two photographers’ work complement each other extremely well. It was a shame that Ray-Jones only lived until 30, but Parr, who was very much influenced and inspired by him, not only ‘succeeded’ him but also became a pioneer in his own right. This exhibition is not to be missed.



Derek Jarman: Pandemonium at King’s College London (until 9th March) – I was surprised when I found out about a new exhibition on Derek Jarman, as I haven’t heard his name mentioned in the media for years. As an art/design student who used to spend time watching British art house films at the ICA, Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway were the two directors whose films regularly featured there.

This small exhibition is part of the Jarman2014, a year-long celebration of the life and work of the multidisciplinary artist/ filmmaker/ activist, Derek Jarman who died twenty years ago of HIV-related causes. The show focuses on Derek’s relationship with London, displaying a range of work including paintings, journals, film posters, photographs and film clips etc. Each visitor is also given an audio device with music and sounds that accompany the viewing. After the exhibition, I felt the need to re-watch his films again to understand the legacy he left behind.


Kara Walker at the Camden Art Centre (ended) – Africa-American artist, Kara Walker‘s first solo exhibition in the UK was small but powerful nonetheless. The life-sized silhouettes/ cut-outs looked ‘joyful’ from afar, but then when examined closely, they depicted some not so innocent tales. Even her shadow-puppet films are not made for comfortable viewing. Walker’s work deals with racial, gender and historical issues, it is dark, disturbing, critical and highly significant.


Wael Shawky at the Serpentine Gallery (ended) – I wanted to see The Chapman brothers‘s exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler gallery but left the place disappointed (see below). Yet at the Serpentine Gallery nearby, I was pleasantly surprised by Egyptian artist, Wael Shawky‘s work. I had never heard of this artist before but was genuinely impressed by his two films, Cabaret Crusades thatdepict episodes from the medieval Crusades enacted by marionettes based on historical references and stories from both sides. Shawky is not only an accomplished story-teller, but an insightful one too.


in the makingin the makingthe making

The manufacturing of tennis balls, chair and pencils at the In the making exhibition, Design Museum


In the making at the Design Museum (until 5th May) – This small exhibition is probably slightly overshadowed by the Paul Smith exhibition downstairs, but it is a real gem. The show is curated by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby (founders of Barber & Osgerby, and the designers of the 2012 Olympic torch), and it features over 20 everyday objects at the earlier stages of their production. It is so fascinating to see seemingly familiar objects in their unfinished states, and some of them are almost unrecognisable… like the tennis balls above. The show allow viewers to understand the manufacturing processes and learn about stories behind these everyday objects. Even though these unfinished pieces are not functional, the rawness makes them look almost more beautiful and intriguing than the finished designs!


Liu Wei: Density at White Cube Mason’s Yard (until 15th March) – Liu is a conceptual artist from Beijing who works in various media such as installation, drawing, sculpture, painting and video. His first solo exhibition in the UK explores the issue of urbanism by using architectural materials. The artist’s new installations contain no ‘stereotypical’ Chinese elements, yet they are about important issues facing China today. The enormous geometric sculptures in the downstairs gallery are constructed from books, iron and wood. Their over-bearing presence enables visitors to experience the spatial crowdedness he refers to in urban areas. Thoughtful and intriguing.


The rest:

David Lynch: The factory photographs, Andy Warhol: photographs from 1976-1987 & William S. Burroughs at The Photographer’s gallery (until 30th March) It’s hard to describe how I feel about the three exhibitions within the gallery… as a semi-fan of David Lynch‘s earlier work, I was slightly disappointed with the work shown here. His black-and-white photos of empty and derelict industrial sites in Europe and America are moody and ‘cold’, but they are also repetitive and hard to engage. I found Burroughs‘s work quite intriguing but was more fascinated by Warhol‘s obsessive documenting, as it also revealed him and his relationships with his subjects. Overall, a very mixed show, but perhaps it was due to my high expectations beforehand.


Georgian revealed estoick collection

Left: A surreal pop-up Georgian garden appeared at the British Library; Right: Garden at the Estorick Collection.


Georgians revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain at the British Library (until 11th March) – This major exhibition focuses on the culture, architecture, fashion and leisure of the Georgian period. It is very informative, but I found some aspects are more interesting than others. My favourite of the show was the last room, which is full of enlarged prints of Richard Horwood’s 1790s map of London… utterly captivating.


Emilio Greco: Sacred and Profane at Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art (ended) I don’t often visit this Italian art gallery near Highbury/Islington, yet I have always enjoyed my visits here. This exhibition featured work by the Sicilian sculptor and artist, Emilio Greco (1913–95), who is considered to be one of Italy’s most important modern sculptors. His powerful portrait busts and sensual nudes were the highlights, but his drawings and etchings were quite impressive too. This wonderful gallery is often overlooked by tourists and even locals, yet it is one of the best galleries in north London and its cafe provides a chill-out zone that overlooks a small landscaped garden with several life-size sculptures.


The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS (ended) – This exhibition was bigger than I expected, and it showcased a lot of historical artifacts and manuscripts, as well as a walk-in fire temple. Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions, and it originated amongst the Iranian peoples in Central Asia during the second millennium BC. It spread east along the Silk Road as far as China and south-west to Iran, and was once the state religion in Iran before Islam. The religion’s belief is based on good (Ahura Mazda) versus evil (Ahriman), and that the world will come to an end once Evil has been fully overcome. The exhibition offers an educational opportunity for visitors to learn more about this ancient and rather mysterious religion.


Art under Attack: histories of British iconoclasm at Tate Britain (ended) – This exhibition examined the history of physical assaults and vandalism on art in Britain from the Reformation to the present day. I found the earlier work more interesting than the recent ones, especially work that was destroyed or defaced due to religious reasons. The subject matter here is quite fascinating, but the exhibition itself was quite inconsistent and it became irrelevant and less engaging towards the end, which was a shame.


sensing spacesIMG_5864sensing spacesIMG_5872sensing spacessensing spacessensing spacessensing spacessensing spaces

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined. Top left: Álvaro Siza’s installations outside; Top right: Diébédo Francis Kéré’s interactive installations; 2nd & bottom row left: Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s Blue; 2nd row middle: Grafton Architects; 2nd row right & main: Kengo Kuma’s installation; Bottom row middle and right: Li Xiaodong


Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined at Royal Academy of Art (until 6th April) I suppose it must be very challenging to curate an exhibition on architecture. But this major exhibition at the Royal Academy demonstrate what can be achieved within the confined gallery space. The exhibition is all about the visitors’ sensory experiences… with the surrounding space, the installations and even other people at the show.

Pezo von Ellrichshausen‘s ‘Blue’ installation is an imposing wooden structure with four cylinders/ staircases that led visitors to the top deck. It brings out a sense of adventurous within us and makes us want to ‘explore’ more.

I have always liked work by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, his scented bamboo installations at the show are poetic and quite sensational. In another room, Chinese architect Li Xiaodong uses twigs to create a meditative labyrinth that eventually led us to a mirrored space with pebbles, which is the zen garden and ‘temple’.

The overall experience at this exhibition was a light-hearted one, and I applaud the Royal Academy for putting up such a brave show that is very different from their standard exhibitions.


Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore at the Somerset House (ended) – I did not expect the crowd outside of this exhibition on a cold Saturday afternoon ( I guess I haven’t been to an exhibition in the weekends for a long time), so I returned on Monday since the entrance fee was reduced by half on the day. As expected, the exhibition was all about creative and cutting edge fashion, and was dominated by pieces from her two favoured designers, Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy. The show focused more on Blow‘s fashion legacy rather than her personal life and tragic end. Aside from the amazing wardrobe, there were also correspondence between her and various fashion publications that revealed her eccentricity and spending habits. The show allowed us to get a glimpse into the world of a colourful and unconventional character driven by a passion for creativity. It is not only a celebration her legacy, but more importantly, it reminded us of human’s vulnerabilities despite of the glamourous and successful facades.


Paul smith Paul smithPaul smithpaul smith paul smith

Hello, my name is Paul Smith at the Design Museum


Hello, my name is Paul Smith at the Design Museum (until 22nd June) – I often see Paul Smith as a successful entrepreneur, collector, and a down-to-earth guy who is a rarity in the fashion world. I met him years ago in his flagship store behind the counter and he was so friendly and genuine, which really left a strong impression on me. However, I never saw him as a cutting-edge designer, and perhaps this is one of the reasons for his success. This exhibition is not so much about his designs but more about him, the person behind a highly successful global brand: a designer, collector, photographer, entrepreneur, perfectionist, traveler, loving husband, and most of all, someone who is passionate and true to himself. The show itself perhaps is too aesthetically-driven, but it is able to convey Smith‘s spirit and passion. And it is not hard to understand why he is one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs around today.


Most disappointing

Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900 at the National Gallery (ended) – I came to see the show for two reasons: Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, but left the show disappointed. Yes, there were some great work on display by the two artists as well as many other well-known artists from the same period, but the show was stuffy, unfocused and apathetic. The problem was not to do with the work but the curation itself. I left the show with some historical facts and dates yet completely emotionless.


Jake and Dinos Chapman: Come and See at Serpentine Sackler Gallery (ended) Once upon a time, British artists like Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and The Chapman Brothers were YBAs (Young British Artists) who ruled the British art scene. I have never been fond of work by the group but I thought The Chapman Brothers‘s work was darker, deeper and more provocative. Yet at this show, the ‘shock’ tactic, a theme that runs throughout their work seems repetitive, calculating and dated. McDonalds, the Nazis and consumerism are just some of the villains here, but their cynicism and humour is no longer refreshing and thought-provoking, instead I found it rather egocentric and jaded. The show offered nothing new and I left the exhibition devoid of much emotion except for boredom.