Impressionism may be synonymous with water lilies, Parisian boulevards, and the tawny fields of southern France, but the movement derives its name from a less idyllic setting; an industrial  port scene of cranes, fog, and murky sunlight painted by Claude Monet in his 1872 “Impression, Sunrise”.

Derided by critics in 1872 when it first appeared at a group exhibition alongside works by Edgar Degas and Paul Cezanne, it has become a foundational work and is currently making its China debut as the centerpiece of “Impression, Sunrise”, a showing of nearly 50 Impressionist works — including nine Monets — at Shanghai’s Bund One Art Museum, Sept 17 to Jan 3. 

Why it matters

Shanghai’s cultural boom continues — Bund One Art Museum is located in a cultural corridor on the banks of the Huangpu River, a former industrial area that the local government has invested billions renovating. 2019 was a landmark year with Paris’ Centre Pompidou and Japanese art collective teamLab opening permanent outposts in the area. COVID-19 halted momentum and brought the city’s cultural scene to a standstill through May. “Impression, Sunrise” signals a further step towards the city’s cultural revival.

European star power — Created alongside Paris’ Musée Marmottan Monet, the exhibition evidences the year’s first prominent collaboration with a non-Chinese museum and a will to continue staging high profile showings. Exhibitions of Europe’s most esteemed artists hold strong appeal with Chinese Millennials and Gen Zers in first tier cities — as demonstrated by the sellout Picasso show at Beijing’s UCCA in 2019 and Tate’s 2018 “Landscapes of the Mind” the best-attended exhibition in its history.

Recommended ReadingHow European Museums Benefit From China PartnershipsBy Richard Whiddington and Jiayi Li

K-Pop collaboration — Bund One Art Museum contextualized the Impressionist works by presenting them along Japanese woodcut prints collected by Monet, works by contemporary French artists, and an immersive concept space “Team Wang X Monet”. Designed by Jackson Wang, a Hong Kong born K-Pop star whose Mainland popularity is perhaps best understood by his winning Weibo’s “Male God of the Year Award” in 2019, the immersive space reinterpreted Monet’s painting of Le Havre in the context of Shanghai. He also designed — and modeled — merchandise for the exhibition.

What the exhibition creators said

“The Monet exhibition was first held six years ago in 2014, I always hoped that ‘Impression, Sunrise’ would be exhibited in China and now, this dream has become a reality. Displaying contemporary art works in the exhibition shows our willingness to focus on the present.” Xie Dingwei, exhibition curator.

“This exhibition represents the wish to conduct cultural exchange. Monet’s “Sunrise Impression” represents the universality of the sun rising in the east, by presenting contemporary art works  sunrise east.” Marianne Mathiue, Deputy Director, Musee Marmottan Monet.

What it looks like

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Cultural Collaborations, Museum Partnerships