Had a great time this weekend at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s special art exhibit “Shanghai” with Vancouver-based playwright and actress Laara Ong.
Laara is writing a play about Shanghai in the 1930s and 40s for a Vancouver theater company, so this exhibit also served as research for ideas on set design, decor, costumes, etc.
We both loved this lithograph of Shanghai women with bound feet playing billiards!
The exhibit had more than 130 works of art loaned from the Shanghai Art Museum in China, including paintings from the 1850s (so cool to see old Shanghai’s skyline!) to the contemporary period, qipaos, 1930s silent movie clips, avant-garde performance art videos from today’s young artists, posters from the 1930s, Art Deco furniture from the 1930s (gorgeous!!!!), Cultural Revolution posters, wood block prints from pre-1949 China, and two amazing silk embroidered panels based upon the burial cloth for the coffin of a Han Dynasty empress but updated with symbols taken from China’s post 1949 history. Sorry, the museum did not allow us to take pictures.
Here’s a picture from the Asian Art Museum’s official website (but it really doesn’t do the embroidery justice):
While we were looking at the wood-block prints, one of which showed a “Bar & Cafe” from the 1940s, a man approached us and asked me, “So when do bars close in Shanghai today? Do they stay open all night? Do they close at 2 AM like in the U.S.? Can you go out later than that?” I was startled and went straight into my default mode, which is teacher mode, and began to describe the nature of private business in Shanghai today. Laara, on the other hand, leaned over and said to Mr. Bar Guy, “Why? Do you want to go to Shanghai just to get face plastered?”
His face turned red and he quickly slunk off to another part of the museum.
Way to go, Laara!
After the museum, we met up with Laara’s husband, Bill, who was attending a design conference today.
I can hardly wait to see Laara’s new play, in which she will also star, but Laara tells me it will probably be a couple more years before the debut. I will definitely post more in the future about it as the opening approaches!
For more information on Laara, you can actually watch episodes of some of the TV shows she’s appeared in here: Laara Ong bio.
Here’s a link to the Asian Art Museum’s exhibit: Shanghai Exhibit
I’ve always loved visiting Shanghai. It is the city of my father’s birth, and I love that its culture is a hybrid, not just of East and West, but also of so many different Chinese subcultures, as it has always been and continues to be a magnet for Chinese from other parts of China. I’ve visited the city probably a 100 or more times since my first trip to Shanghai in 1985. It’s amazing how the city has changed over the years. This exhibit was very special to me. I’m glad I could share it with a friend.