The best of visual art in Shanghai

A stimulating blend of traditional and contemporary art forms has made Shanghai a vibrant centre of artistic expression. Shanghai’s progress in transforming itself into a cultural hub is nowhere more apparent than its development in visual arts. Here is our guide to the best visual art in Shanghai.
50 Moganshan Road, known as M50, is a contemporary art district with many galleries located in an old industrial area in Shanghai, China. Photo: Shutterstock
50 Moganshan Road, known as M50, is a contemporary art district with galleries and studios in a former industrial area in Shanghai, China. Photo: Shutterstock

The Shanghai Museum

When the Shanghai Museum built its striking new building overlooking People’s Square in 1996, it demonstrated that the city was serious about improving its cultural standards. One of the best museums in China, it houses wonderful collections of Chinese paintings, sculpture and finely crafted objects. You can view ancient bronzes, jade and ceramics, as well as collections of furniture and Chinese seals. The museum's Chinese paintings collection is the finest in the country, featuring works by masters of the Qing, Ming and Yuan dynasties.

China Art Museum. It is housed in the former China Pavilion of Expo 2010 located in Pudong, the largest art museum in Asia. Photo: ShutterstockChina Art Museum, Asia's largest art museum, housed in the former China Pavilion of Expo 2010, located in Pudong. Photo: Shutterstock

China Art Museum 

Housed in an imposing, tiered, red construction that was originally the China Pavilion of Expo 2010, the China Art Museum is one of the largest museums in Asia. Start at the top of its five floors and work your way down through expansive galleries exhibiting works tracing the origins of Chinese modern art and the country's arts development during the 21st century. The museum also hosts touring international blockbuster exhibitions from the likes of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum and the British Museum in London. Savour the cultural masterpieces in the China Art Museum, as part of Insight Guides' Complete China: Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai trip.

Power Station of Art

The Power Station of Art opened in 2012 as the first contemporary art museum in China run by the state. Occupying a huge former power plant on the banks of the Huangpu River, the museum exhibits innovative contemporary art in expansive exhibition spaces spread over seven floors. The building’s 165-metre high, neon-lit chimney has become an iconic feature of Shanghai’s night-time skyline. You can visit the monumental Power Station of Art as a highlight of Insight Guides' The Best of China tour.

 Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) 

In the verdant surroundings of the People’s Park, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) was founded in 2005, partly inspired by China’s determination to establish itself in the international contemporary art market. A relatively compact exhibition space housed in a glass building, the museum’s diverse programme highlights mixed media, displaying new and established artists alongside retrospectives profiling creative and fashion designers. Once you’ve taken in the art, head up to the rooftop patio bar to enjoy a drink while admiring sweeping park and city views.

The exhibition of Bharti Kher's sculptures in the Rockbund Art museum. Photo: ShutterstockBharti Kher sculpture on display in the Rockbund Art Museum. Photo: Shutterstock

Rockbund Art Museum

Occupying an imposing 1930s, art deco building near the Bund Waterfront, the Rockbund Art Museum hosts a vibrant contemporary art exhibition programme focused on innovative work. Chinese artists who have been shown at the museum include leading lights such as Zeng Fanzhi and Cai Guo-Qiang. Influential exhibitions are complemented by educational and outreach initiatives as part of the museum’s aim to illuminate social issues in China through visual arts.


A hub of the Chinese contemporary art boom in Shanghai, M50 is a cluster of galleries and artists' studios in old concession-era warehouses near Suzhou Creek. Previously dilapidated spaces used by galleries looking for affordable storage, today the space has been reinvented and many of the galleries – and the artists – have taken on a sophisticated veneer that can only come from selling expensive art. A stroll through the galleries, which carry everything from up-and-coming to established artists, photography to installation, is a free tour of Chinese contemporary art. Some of most important contemporary Chinese art galleries in Shanghai are represented at M50, including OV and Vanguard.

Ready to see the best visual arts in Shanghai?

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