Shanghai’s cat art scene beckons visitors

Every day, visitors flock to take pictures with these cat photos.

Shanghai’s cat art scene beckons visitors
Source: Shanghai Municipal People's Government

Over the years, the Chinese city of Shanghai has become well known for its booming contemporary art scene. In fact, it’s home to China’s first-ever state-run contemporary art museum, the Power Station of Art. The museum features 92 different artists, and 26 of those are of Chinese origin.

Shanghai became a cultural center for contemporary art relatively recently as China progressed as a major economic power. With the world’s eyes on China during the 2008 Olympics and the 2010 World Expo, Chinese art and culture started getting a lot of attention, and Shanghai became the national capital of new-age art. The cultural district of Shanghai is called the West Bund, and this is where some of the most exciting art museums and exhibitions are shown via repurposed coal silos, factories and airplane hangars.

“If you are looking to the future, you probably have your eyes on Chinese artists,” says Kelly Ying, a Chinese collector and co-founder with her husband, David Chau, of the annual art fair ART021.

The newest art trend in Shanghai is … cat art. In the Old City part of Shanghai, local artist and cartoonist Gao Youjun, aka Tango, has put up over 30 pictures of residential pet cats on walls along a part of Middle Fangbang Road, right on the Bund. Before this impromptu cat exhibit sprung up, this area was pretty empty, under demolition since 2018. Now, these blown-up pictures cover the three-meter-tall walls.

Tango says that the project is inspired by the stray cats that he’s seen out and about in the city. “These cats might have never left Huangpu District,” Tango explains. “They are the real ‘Shanghainese.’”

Every day, visitors flock to take pictures with these cat photos. The area has become known as “cat street,” where other paintings and cat-related art have sprung up for the Bund Art Season, which lasts through the end of May.