I love street art. It’s basically free art on the wall for everyone to see. The message could be anything. Positive slogans, serious messages, or sarcasm. And that’s what makes it so interesting and surprising. Every trip I take I look for street art. But when I planned my trip to Shanghai I didn’t expect to find any street art. I mean: it’s China, a country with a communist regime and a zero-tolerance policy. Free expression like street art doesn’t really fit into this. So I had no hope of finding street art in Shanghai. Until I read about Shanghai M50. An abbreviation of Moganshan Road 50, Shanghai. A place that is known as a creative hotspot filled with street art and contemporary art. It sounded like something I didn’t want to miss.

Read next: Bike tour Shanghai: exploring China’s largest city on a bicycle.

Shanghai Street art China M50

Shanghai Street art at Moganshan road

Let’s start off by saying Moganshan Road isn’t a beautiful place. When I was there, the road was near a construction site. The workers there were walking around with a Chinese version of the crop top. Half belly, half shirt. The famous #Beijingbelly is definitely not limited to the Chinese capital. Though this street is not the prettiest one, it is the perfect place for creative people. That’s what a couple of Shanghainese artists thought when they moved out here in the year 2000. Moganshan Road turned into a creative hub in Shanghai. One piece of art definitely caught my eye: my own country (The Netherlands) against the American city Boston. Why? I don’t know, but somehow we made an impression on the Chinese.

Shanghai China Streetart
Streetart Shanghai China

A creative area at number 50

I made my way along the wall of street art and arrived at number 50. Thé number where it’s all about on Moganshan Road. It was an old factory ground where you can find dozens of galleries, cafes, and vintage shops. Old meets new. Furthermore, the site itself was also filled with all sorts of art pieces. I saw a gigantic clay man, an old Chinese bike, and a lamp post made out of crazy traffic signs. I also ended up at a flea market with hand-made jewelry and tea mugs. What a surprise! The area reminded me a bit of the LX factory in Lisbon, only the Chinese version is more into contemporary art.

Shanghai China creative zone
China Shanghai street art

Future of Shanghai M50

Shanghai M50 is continuously changing. New works appear, others disappear. New galleries open, others close. On top of that, there is always a risk that parts of M50 are going to be demolished someday. It already happened in 2013 when a developer demolished a piece of the street art wall to make space for a building site. Remember the building site I talked about at the beginning of this blog post? That’s the one! The Chinese government also tried to demolish M50 completely in 2011 and replace it with skyscrapers.

Update: in 2018 more parts of M50 were demolished by the government. So don’t expect too much when you visit the place.

How to get to M50 & tours

You can easily go to M50 with metro lines 3 and 4. Get out at Zhongtan Station and cross Suzhou Creek (also known as Wusong river). On the other side of the river, you’ll find M50. 

Don’t want to go to M50 by yourself? Join this Shanghai Art & History Tour. M50 is one of the stops, but you also get to visit other cool areas like Tianzifang. Click here for an overview of guided M50 tours.

Where to stay in Shanghai?

Want to stay somewhere close to M50? Then Courtyard by Marriot Shanghai Central might be a great option for you. Click here for an overview of hotels and hostels in Shanghai.

Have you been to Shanghai? Are you also a fan of street art?

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