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Shanghai’s alternative Bank gallery evicted from state-owned building

The move seems to be part of a government crackdown on private entities renting spaces across the country

by Lisa Movius  |  19 June 2016
Shanghai’s alternative Bank gallery evicted from state-owned building

Marina Abramovic at Bank gallery
The boundary-pushing, trend-setting Shanghai gallery Bank is being forced to shut on Sunday, 19 June, after only six days’ notice, due to a recent policy that bans private entities from renting state-owned properties.

Opened in September 2013 by the Shanghai-based American curator Mathieu Borysevicz, the gallery occupied the first floor of the charmingly decrepit 1925 Bank Union Building, located near the landmark Bund. The space kept the original peeling paint and wood floors worn to a rich sheen. An oddly placed old stage in the middle of the room was used for the performances that were part of Bank’s varied, highly conceptual and often provocative exhibitions, which presented young talents like Geng Yini, Double Fly and Chen Tianzhuo as well as established figures like Xu Bing, Ai Weiwei, Zhang Enli, Paul McCarthy and Isaac Julien.

  • An installation view of the show Vive le Capital at Bank in 2015
  • An oddly placed old stage in the middle of the room was used for the performances that were part of Bank’s varied, highly conceptual and often provocative exhibitions, such as Chen Tianzhuo’s opening performance Picnic Paradi$e Bitch at BANK in 2014. Photo: Alex Wang
  • The gallery hosted a book launch for Xu Bing’s From the Ground in 2014. Photo: Alex Wang
  • An installation view of the show Vive le Capital at Bank in 2015
  • An oddly placed old stage in the middle of the room was used for the performances that were part of Bank’s varied, highly conceptual and often provocative exhibitions, such as Chen Tianzhuo’s opening performance Picnic Paradi$e Bitch at BANK in 2014. Photo: Alex Wang

“I feel that together with our artists we breathed new life into this amazing carcass of a building on Xianggang Lu and contributed to Shanghai’s rise on the international art map,” Borysevicz says. “We proved that a successful art space needn’t be a glossy, industrial, white cube but could retain some messy character of its own.”

Bank’s closure follows those of the Shanghai branch of James Cohen gallery and local jazz institution JZ Club, which shut last year and last month respectively, purportedly due to the same policy, part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption measures. “Video Bureau in Guangzhou, who were holding a lease until 2018, were recently evicted as well,” Borysevicz adds. Earlier concerns with Bank’s lease had been ironed out by a sympathetic landlord, the chair of the state enterprise that holds the building, “but this time it’s blitzkrieg—sudden and harsh. It seems it’s a city- or countrywide ordinance and this time they’re adamant to enforce it,” Borysevicz says.

Besides planning a blowout closing party on Sunday, Borysevicz is now “frantically looking” for a new location where, “we will still be as anti-bling-bling and alternative as possible,” he says. “The problem is that much of Shanghai’s rich character comes from the combination of interesting spaces and their programmes. If it’s all going to be a bunch of skyscrapers and shopping malls, it’ll suck big time.”

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