Caison Wang, Regression
America’s relations with China are in a particular state of tatters—and it’s hardly even worth recounting exactly who is responsible for that situation. And with the TikTok ban imminent, don’t expect the outlook to get any rosier any time soon.
But art generally has a way of rising above the political clatter, and reaching across the borders/oceans. Of course now, with Americans all but grounded for international travel, the cultural exchanges will all be digital. Which is why the influential art streaming app Loupe has become ever more relevant—especially as its new motion art channel was recently launched, offering a whole new level of engagement with its carefully curated stable of global art talent.
One of those artists is Caison Wang, who studied Stateside in Atlanta, but is currently residing in the creative hotbed that is Shanghai. And as part of a pandemic inspired (meaning, we can’t actually travel right now) new series, BlackBook, in conjunction with Loupe, has engaged her to create a guide to some of her city’s most unmissable cultural destinations—including even where local artists like to go for a good night out.
Caison Wang, Surveillance
Caison Wang’s Cultural Guide to Shanghai
“I am a Shanghai-based artist, focusing on installation and sculpture related to social phenomenon, the human spirit, psychological values and consumerism. I have been based in Shanghai for The Swatch Art Peace Hotel residency since 2019, and it has been an exhilarating chance for me to enjoy a luxury studio in a centuries-old hotel, and meet professional artists from around the world. Creativity and diversity are central to the city; Shanghai is an incredible place to link with the international art market, and has created a new regional culture by absorbing cultures from all over the world.
I started working with Loupe as a graduate student in the United States in 2018. The platform shares many artistic talents to a wide audience, and it eliminates cultural barriers between the public and the artist. I have continued my work with Loupe in Shanghai and believe it is an incredible experience for emerging artists wherever they live and work around the world.”
Caison Wang, Seven Sins
On the desolate site of the 2010 World Expo, the Chinese government has transformed an old power station into an artistic gem. Power Station of Art (PSA) is the first state-owned contemporary art museum in China, so while that precludes shows that might be deemed too avant-garde, it is also the main site for the Shanghai Biennale. I think PSA provides the community with an open showground for modern culture, hence removing the gap between art and life, boosting the collaboration and knowledge production between different cultures and art categories.
My first group exhibition titled #HASHTAG in Shanghai was at the PSA. It was selected as one of three winning proposals for the 2017 Emerging Curators Project. I was so excited to be invited by the esteemed curators to exhibit my works “Mechanical Avalokiteshvara” and “Unconscious Hierarchy.”
Peace Hotel is at the center of the Bund and one of the most famous hotels in China. In 2010, the south building was redesigned by Swatch for the artist residency program, in which artists from around the world are invited to live and work on two dedicated floors. Its unique operational concept blends a retail environment with a hotel, workshops and apartments where artists live and work. Gifted artists from around the world are selected by an international committee.
The Swatch Art Peace Hotel has its own exhibition room on the first floor, which features 480 square meters for art exhibitions that are free to the public. Exchanges and interactions among visiting artists are always very lively and there is a lot of idea sharing amongst Chinese and Western artists. “Open Studio” events encourage communication among artists, the management team, the local art community and the public.
I was so lucky to be invited by the program to do the residency for six months in 2019—it provided me with a significant chance of sharing art. This incomparable historical building inspired me a lot in my creation process. During these six months, I learned and shared art, culture and fun with artists from different countries. I extended my research topic “Unconscious Hierarchy”(fig) and built a new installation that was shown during open studio night.
A space engaged with pushing the boundaries of contemporary art. I love this art space because it has a unique form—it mutates together with the times it lives in. Initially located in Suzhou in a 900 square meter warehouse, it has hosted over 40 different artists from 15 countries. Since 2015, Square Gallery has held exhibitions and art fairs in China and Europe.
The Press, built-in 1918, was the first newspaper office of Shenbao for over half a century. In 2015, it was refurbished to become Inno Coffee, and it also retained the architectural imprint of the past. It’s a spacious and impressively renovated café. You could easily spend several hours reading, working, or just hanging out there.
This is my favorite drinks and dancing place, and I often recommend visitors to go there. Bund 18 was once the Chinese headquarters for the Chartered Bank—it is a historic building, that features the city’s most famous nightlife spots, including Bar Rouge, Mr. & Mrs. Bund, as well as a café and art gallery, all amidst iconic views of the Shanghai skyline.