696 Weihai road in Shanghai is a funky artists colony of bare concrete, paint spatters, and, as you’d imagine, a quirky collection of people. It’s also just around the corner from my office, and I’ve strolled around the area few times on lunch breaks. I’ve not witnessed any of the apparently great performance art (see right), but there’s some great murals and graffiti decorating the area.
Thanks to Danwei, I discovered that the artists in this ‘colony’ are not allowed to renew their leases. so the Shanghai government & developers can build a creative park. English language Arts blog Shanghai Eye has a run-down of the media coverage and opinion pieces the artists have gotten published in the media.
This is, I suppose, an inevitable southward expansion of the gentrified Nanjing West Road, though the area is generally pretty ritzy, save for this ‘colony’ and a few pockets of old rowhouses. The Four Seasons is 2 blocks from here, and 2012 will bring a line 12 station at Weihai/Nanjing west road (on land recently “reclaimed” from a neighborhood of rowhouses), just steps from this ‘colony’. I have no doubt that this new development will, as Ma Liang notes, attempt to be Jing’An district’s tianzifang.
Cities change and growth happens, and is generally preferable to the alternatives. As Ma Liang notes, he won’t be a Nail House nor is this expected to be a dramatic eviction (unlike contentious evictions around China). It is, however, a poignant juxtaposition that elucidates the Shanghai Government’s attitude toward art and creativity vs what I suppose we need to call commercial and consumer focused creativity and art.