For an art museum in a shopping mall, Pudong’s Zendai Museum has got it going on. Located in the oddly named Zendai Thumb Square, a large retail center outfitted with international brand-name shops (grab a croissant at Paul’s, a latte at Starbucks, a pizza at Papa John’s, etc.), the museum is the brainchild of an investment banker and real estate mogul who wanted to inject some culture into a contemporary Shanghai that often seems too devout to the religion of the all-mighty renminbi (he has plans to build a luxury hotel/art museum combo next).
Though it might surprise Westerners brought up to think of fine art and commerce as mutually exclusive spheres, the Zendai is quickly becoming one of the most consistently interesting museums in Shanghai, where the art business is now booming alongside every other type of business imaginable.
Bringing in work by international art stars like Julian Schnabel as well as that of rising Chinese talents, the Zendai exudes a flair and sense of artisitc excitement that is often lacking in more established—and more jaded—locales. Also, the museum sponsors art education programs and concerts. Though most tourists’ visits to Pudong are limited to the Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Tower and Lujiazui’s restaurants and bars, the Zendai is a great reason to venture deeper into Pudong’s rapidly developing, unexplored depths.