In rapidly developing and changing cities, creative spaces are often given low priority compared with other more lucrative ventures. In Shanghai, the art district of M50 has become an international creative cluster over the years.
Located along the South banks of the Suzhou River just north of the city’s center, M50 is a collection of former factory buildings built between the 1930s and 1990s. Many of these former factories have been renovated and now contain over 100 art, design, and creative spaces including modern galleries, architecture firms, environmental design firms and studios. Like many creative spaces, it began somewhat haphazardly, as small groups of likeminded artists set up shop in the relatively cheap area.
It has now been officially recognized as one of the city’s creative industry clusters as Shanghai planners and officials attempt to foster creative talent and innovation that will propel Shanghai into a global creative city. In practice, this has meant that the area has been appropriated in order to provide economic growth. As a result, a number of smaller galleries and studios have been forced out of the area as rent rises and a sense of authenticity disappears.
Whatever the future holds, M50 remains a site of intense creativity in a city often lacking a sense of cultural preservation. The establishment and maintenance of specialized creative clusters allows an ever-changing city like Shanghai to produce sustainable social, cultural and economic development.
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Credit: Photograph by Sophie Plottel. Data linked to sources.