The Metropolitan Development of Shanghai from a Historical Perspective

Shanghai #21, May 7, 2018 | © Courtesy of Franck Michel/Flickr.
Shanghai #21, May 7, 2018 | © Courtesy of Franck Michel/Flickr.

One can argue that the development of Shanghai as a global metropolis has been driven by visual urban development concepts, as reflected in art and architecture.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

As Robert Kaltenbrunner argues in his article on “Bedeutung und Wandel von Leitbildern: Folgerungen aus der „Metropolisierung” Shanghais 1927–2002,” published on September 30, 2002 in Raumforschung und Raumordnung | Spatial Research and Planning, the non-utilitarian dimension of Shanghai’s urban evolution and visions that have guided its course is likely to be underestimated. One such vision can be the new Silk Road that refashions Shanghai into its capital city not unlike the status of Paris as the cultural capital of the nineteenth century, as Walter Benjamin has suggested in his magisterial, unfinished research project Das Passagen-Werk, published in German as part of his collected works in 1982 and translated as The Arcades Project into English by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin in 2002.

This Shanghai’s positioning is suggested by the growing emphasis on the protection of historical and architectural heritage, such as structures dating to the period of its industrialization during last two centuries, as Yanqiu Xu indicates in his “Reflections on Industrial Heritage Protection in China” published in e-Phaïstos: Journal of the history of technology in 2012. This tendency has taken its material shape in the post-industrial Power Station of Art in Shanghai. The latter is a contemporary art museum that was inaugurated with the opening of another installment of the Shanghai Art Biennale in August 2012. Immediately afterwards, the Paris-based Centre Pompidou, the iconic museum of modern and contemporary art, has opened its exhibition “Electric Fields: Surrealism and Beyond” from its collections in the Power Station of Art, Shanghai, from December 16, 2012 to March 15,  2013, as reviewed by Cindy Théodore in her contribution to Marges: Revue d’art contemporain from 2013.

As Théodore describes, this exhibition culturally transports its visitors from Shanghai to Paris by presenting the art works of modernist, avant-garde, surrealist and postmodernist figures, such as Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Georg Baselitz, in dialogue with the works of Chinese contemporary artists, e.g., Cai Guo-Qiang. This show both suggests a dualism between Western and Chinese art and its overcoming via this architecturally mediated cultural dialogue in which contemporary art engages, as Shiyan Li suggests in his piece on “Huang Yong Ping and Contemporary Art” appearing in the same issue of Marges in 2013.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Shanghai #21, May 7, 2018 | © Courtesy of Franck Michel/Flickr.


Cite this blog post
Pablo Markin (2019, July 5). The Metropolitan Development of Shanghai from a Historical Perspective. Open Culture. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from

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