J. Whitmel Earley tells the truth about Bund vs French Concession art events.
I expected to lay low last Thursday night by just going to an opening or two, starting with the World Photography show at 18Gallery. However, as soon as I walked into the Bund 18 building with an Ermenegildo Zegna flagship on the bottom and Bar Rouge on the top, I began to feel that I was not only not going to a low key event, I was also under dressed for the evening.
The photography, though, was stunning – especially the prints on scrolls that rolled down from the high ceilings into the crowds. And the diversity of style was fabulous, from up close and personal shots of jewelry-heavy South American children holding crucifixes to architectural color wheels to amateur (but wow!) cityscapes; I was definitely captured by the work…but I was also captured by cameras.
The organizers decided that photographing the attendees would be a nice touch to a photography exhibit and while it was definitively fun, it also took the focus off the work. My co-attendee was actually noticed for his trendy shoes and pulled aside for a photo shoot without me…which only further emphasized my feelings of inadequate attire.
That and the fact that to actually see the work, you had to push back the suits and cocktail dresses holding mixed drinks and fight your way to the walls. Personally, standing nose-to-canvas isn’t the best way to enjoy artwork – I prefer a meter’s distance at least.
So while I was crazy to see some more of the pictures, all the photographing and the glamour of the event did make me feel a bit out of place, perhaps even uninvited. Not to mention my hand held digital consumer camera was quite self-conscious amidst the SLR crowd of flashing bulbs.
The best part – and a sort of metaphor for the event – was the ogling that happened in front of the photojournalist celebrity shots of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, curiously positioned to conjure up James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic (how appropriate for a China crowd).
I would absolutely go back when there’s less of a crowd, but I got out of there after the second glass of champagne to head to a slightly more grassroots event at The Nutlab.
The Nut space is situated on Kangding Lu, far from the flashing lights and glitz of the Bund. Though my jeans were more welcome at the less formal event, I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of event I had turned up to.
The space is a dim cavern with a large red almond-like structure in the center. Different floors, different rooms, and an open space with a bar and a DJ create a lounge-meets-creative studio feel.
After exploring a little bit, I found a room full of Baiba Ladiga’s watercolor fashion sketches – colorful figures with pointy hips and extra-long arms – I always love the hyperbole of beauty in fashion design sketches.
The best part was what I’m calling the Rabbit Room, which told a little story on the wall of how humans used to wear furs until the animals took over, now using human skin for clothing. An eerie thought! But a visually appealing installation.
Later I found more art on the upper floor along with some space to unwind while watching the crowd begin to pour in for this opening / art party.
Just before I left, some artists began a simultaneous canvas painting (I think in some good-natured contest?). I wasn’t incredibly engaged by the live painting, but in a quirky space with a casual crowd, I at least felt invited.
This article was also posted on Bound Editorial. For more honest experiences, scroll through the Narrative section.