Rockbund Art Museum

A major addition to Shanghai’s rapidly evolving arts scene, the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) delivers a sophisticated dose of culture to a part of town that, in the past decade or so, has emerged from years of stagnation following the bad old days of the Cultural Revolution to reclaim much of the glitz and glam associated with Shanghai’s pre-war days.

Featuring a heady mix of innovative Chinese and international artists working in a range of media, the Rockbund’s historical building provides a fascinating framework for the art on display. Formerly the Shanghai headquarters of the Royal Asiatic Society, the six-story Art Deco edifice, completed in 1932, is a prime example of foreign concession-era architecture.

Inside, narrow winding stairs (there’s also an elevator, of course) thread upwards, opening onto landings on each floor that open into large gallery spaces suited as much for installations, sound art, video and other mixed and new media as they are to traditional forms.

The upper two floors offer a further surprise. The two-story atrium, ringed by a walkway, provides a unique space for large-scale installations and ceiling-hung works. Finally, topping it all off visitors can enjoy a free cup of coffee and free Wi-Fi at the café while taking in fascinating views of both the atrium and, from a east-facing balcony, the Huangpu River, the Bund and the towers of Pudong.

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