“Today’s cities are not homogeneous in terms of the communities who live there; different communities have different needs and different expectations,” said Maurizio Bortolotti, director of research and public programming for the Shanghai Project. “The Community Participation Program [CPP] aims to engage with those needs. It’s not exclusively for specialized audiences of culture, but for everybody.”
In this vein, the festival’s program of events is ostensibly more about the city’s social and cultural fabric than it is about art in a traditional sense. Among other highlights it includes cooking demonstrations of Shanghainese specialities that have been forgotten—either to the cult of convenience, or to the city’s increasingly diverse population. A collaboration with architect Yu Ting, Urban Micro Space Revival Plan, converts abandoned, neglected, or overlooked sites into venues for events. M Space on Donghu Road, for example, ekes out space between two existing buildings for facilities that include a gallery, cafe, and garden.
“The idea is to give a representation of the possibilities for life in Shanghai, one that is more lively, more dynamic, and more connected with the social and cultural background of the city,” Bortolotti explained. “These small places where people gather together for social moments better represent the life of Shanghai than spots like the Bund or the financial district.”
Also concerned with engaging audiences beyond expected gallery-goers, and emblematic of the market-first cultural approach, is Art in the City. The event’s third edition, which opened this past weekend, switched format from a four-day selling exhibition with offsite events to a month-long festival featuring art tours, a dedicated art bus, and a revamped platform called BLAST! showcasing jury-selected digital media and sound art.