History of island6 Arts Center
The first inception of island6 on 120 Moganshan Road
On the south bank of the Suzhou Creek, Moganshan Road occupies an area of 41,000 m2 with old industrial buildings now entirely transformed into art centers, galleries and studios, built across different historical phases dating from the 1930's.
A dynamic and vibrant art culture has gradually evolved on Moganshan Road. The aspiration to occupy and preserve its Pre-WWI industrial buildings by artists and galleries helped the area become a renowned phenomenon.
Amidst this atmosphere of enterprise and inspiration, a seminal not-for-profit center for experimental and new media art called island6 Arts Center came into being. The center stood on a unique site of a turn of the century warehouse, the Fou Foong Flour Mill. The mill, a four-storey red brick building designed in 1897 by the British architectural firm Dallas and Atkinson, was founded by Mr. Sun Duoxin and his brother Mr. Sun Duosen from Anhui province. They made it the largest and most advanced mill of Asia of the late nineteenth century by being the first ones to import American machinery and by offering its 2,000 employees the benefits of a hospital and two on-site schools. [Earnshaw Graham, Tales of Old Shanghai]
Its success attracted many other entrepreneurs, resulting in the creation of 16 more mills and the base for China's modern milling industry. Later it was purchased by Rong Yiren, Vice-President of the People's Republic of China from 1993 to 1998 and onetime business tycoon.
In 2002, the mill complex was sold to a real estate developer. Most of the silos were demolished and the 'small packaged flour' warehouse was left standing. The solo-standing warehouse, looming dramatically in the middle of an empty field of rubble like a island rising from the depths of the sea, gave the arts center its name. The remnants of Suzhou Creek's heritage was defended by architects and university professors, and island6 became part of the area's historical heritage architecture.
The warehouse was rented out to Thomas Charvériat, Margherita Salmaso, Zheng Guoyang and Kang Jingfang in 2006. Charvériat registered island6 Arts Center Ltd in Hong Kong in March 2006. On April 1st 2006, the art center's first exhibition "Invisible Layers, Electric Cities", curated by Allard van Hoorn and Margherita Salmaso, opened its doors to the public. From June 2006 to June 2008, Charvériat assumed the direction of the space.
In June 2007, Zane Mellupe joined the center as creative director. Under the artistic direction of Charvériat and Mellupe, island6 established itself as a conduit of experimental collaboration, intercultural dialogue and laboratorium of contemporary artistic practice. An amalgamation of over two hundred international conceptual artists working in concert fostered cross-cultural artistic efforts between Eastern and Western cultures and created a dramatic movement which contrasted with other neighboring art centers.
Following an eviction notice by real estate developers in June 2008, island6 occupied a tea factory on 1300 Jun Gong Road north of the Bund on the Huangpu river. The arts center remained in the 2500sqm space from May 2008 to October 2008, when it moved to its current location in m50 as a result of a collaboration with ifa Gallery.
Development of island6 and the move to its current location on m50
The m50 district (located at 31.247841°N 121.449316°E) is found along the shores of the historic Suzhou River at the heart of a former textile factory in the north west of Shanghai. The shores of the river are lined with turn of the century factories, mills, warehouses, ancient quays and modern barges which create a striking contrast with the ultra-modern horizon of condominiums and skyscrapers behind it. m50 has become the first and most dynamic art district in Shanghai.
Collaboration with ifa Gallery
After a series of experimental exhibitions staged in collaboration with ifa Gallery, the island6 Lab relocated to the interior of the m50 compound in September 2008. The new island6 space was aimed at the promotion of new and emergent artists from across the PRC. Following a recent merger and series of interim exhibitions between ifa Gallery and island6, the converted space, designed by French architect Philippe Diani, has undergone complete modern renovations while keeping the historic traits of the site itself intact. island6 and ifa Gallery collaborated until January 2009.
Development of the island6 space
The interior of the new island6 space is a juxtaposition of the new and old, reflecting the erosion and vanishing of local cultural and societal traits amidst the current wave of change which has swept and transformed the city of Shanghai over the past two decades. Located on the second floor of the no. 6 Building of the m50 compound, the interior reveals an exacting attention to detail and spatial renovations following the entire renewal of the exterior facade of the structure in recent years.
Access is made by way of an inner stairwell belonging to the original industrial design of the building and a freight elevator which has survived the passage of time. These further facilitates both entrances to the premises as well as the mounting of large art installations.
The current space now comprises 980sqm of open floor area for use in exhibitions, houses an independent design studio and artists workshop designated for in-situ creations are found within the unique "L" architectural design.
Maximum potential for an open visual experience is created by a semi-detached area which best serves exclusive presentations of digital video and similar projections. A supplementary renovation completed in 2008, a combination of glass and drywall, leaves an open view upon any room of the space. Designed by Taiwanese architects Zheng Guoyang and Kang Jingfang, this recent construction augments a multi-faceted and optimal visual experience due to the unique segmentation and transparency of its design.
The front of the area houses an archive, library and simple reception area where guests are immediately received and literature on past, present and future exhibitions made available to the visiting public. The immediate wall space opposite affords optimal natural daylight due to the minimal decor which is housed in the foyer and the original factory window panels which reach to the 5 meter high ceiling.
The ceiling itself conceals a rare architectural feature concealed by the current white space: reinforced concrete houses a steel lattice framework which dates back to the time of the birth of the compound.
The rear of the vast exhibition space features independent track lighting which houses the halogen, focal spot and other specific lighting ensembles attuned to each artwork. A D.M.C. controlled lighting system, originally designed for a private catwalk, now acts to further enhance the visual experience of the arts centre. Three independent wall spaces of varying lengths and multiple floating panels are used in the presentation of artworks. In the adjacent semi-enclosed area, another original window maximizes the diffusion of natural light sources in a controllable manner. Precise coordination of electric light projection creates for a unique atmosphere for the multi-media and interdisciplinary exhibitions often staged by the island6 collective.
The wall space is kept in a neutral non-reflective white paint and the bare concrete floors are preserved from the original structure's creation. The bare, zen-like appearance of the exhibition space shows off the presence of the artwork and highlights the new technologies and digital/virtual media employed by island6. The industrial appearance is complemented by original furniture by French designer Aymeric Lefort, whose style features a minimalist use of rare wood and chromed metals.
Recent renovation was completed in November 2010 for a futuristic glass office and storage structure in the center of the exhibition space.
The total spatial experience of the arts center and gallery reflects the progressive and experimental approach of island6: a seminal platform and presence of new artistic collaboration in the metropolis of Shanghai today.
Birth of Liu Dao
Liu Dao is island6's permanent in-house art collective. The collective was born in Shanghai's contemporary art scene in 2007 as it was witnessing an explosion that accompanied the city's infrastructural boom and relentless international attention. As reputations were going global and the expanding market was drawing spontaneous investors and inciting monetary ambitions for the young and susceptible, Liu Dao was formed as a counteraction to the mass-misallocation of talent coursing though the momentum of the rising industry.
Thomas Charveriat founded both the Arts Center and Liu Dao with the specific aims of helping the young Chinese contemporary art scene financially, promotionally and most importantly creatively. Between them, the artists have Bachelors or Masters Degrees in Photography, Sculpture, Digital Arts, Theater Direction, Chinese Language and Literature, and Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York, Columbia University, Pompeu Fabra University, Shanghai Theatre Academy, Shanghai Teachers University, and University of the Arts, London. This framework of eclectic academic interests and influences creates a haven for the ever-curious, invites conversational intellectualism and provides a spine of philosophic integrity to guide artists whose ideals and directions are endangered by commercialist temptations.
For the art collective Liu Dao, the spirit and purpose behind all art pieces, literary contributions, and exhibitions has always been collaboration. The group places emphasis on interaction in order to engage artists and art lovers in the process of creating and experiencing art focusing on collective rather than individual values. The direct aim of the group is to remove the egocentrism and drive for fame that can be seen in misled young artists of Chinese contemporary art. Thus the theme of interaction between artist and artist often echoes through productions that create interaction between artwork and viewer.
Evolution of Liu Dao
In keeping island6's progressive and enterprising spirit, the artistic direction and output of the collective has shifted in recent years. Since its founding by Thomas Charveriat and Zane Mellupe in 2006, hundreds of guest artists have received support from the Arts Center in terms of resources and publicity. But most importantly they have contributed to and taken part in a exciting modern art experience within Liu Dao. In the collective's spirit of collaboration, Liu Dao and island6 have adapted to the rapidly changing circumstances of Shanghai's contemporary art world which see scores of contributors and international artists descending upon the city with ever-increasing regularity. To this end, Liu Dao refined its process of recruitment in order to configure the ideal group for facilitating communication and collective energy among its talents.
Due to the blossoming of new media and its involvement in making art, Liu Dao has recently been drawn to the idea of incorporating narratives within its artwork. One of the new current aims of island6 is to make art using the same process as the film industry, with a cast and credits of people with different skills, thus enriching the artwork by adding many different points of view. This again ties in with Liu Dao's collaborative style. "There are people who look at the LED works of Liu Dao and think it's about technology," says Thomas Charveriat. "It's not. It's about collaboration, and new media is a great tool for artistic dialogues. The art we exhibit converge the skills of many people from video, photography, engineering, graphic design and other."
As of July, 2010, Liu Dao features six Chinese artists who come from different backgrounds but all have a passion for contemporary art in technology-based artwork. Four directors and producers guide and facilitate the creative flow between participants in the preparations of exhibitions. Two permanent onsite engineers manage any technical difficulties and are able to skillfully construct a myriad of pieces in different mediums. Various other roles are filled by rotating contributors such as writers, camera operators, film editors, computer programmers, actors, dancers and choreographers. island6 Arts Center often features guest directors and guest curators for different exhibitions, allowing an international and cross-cultural foundation for original ideas to be born from many sources of input rather than one. This helps the artworks transcend the stagnancy that comes from an individual's repetitive conceptual sequences to attain a mode of output which brings diversity and higher sensitivity to the social and artistic influences in the global environment.
island6 has operated in two main locations since its founding, and run various satellite sites, including a space for smaller exhibits and a facility specifically for photographers.
In March 2007, following the growing success of the arts center, a small space was added on 116 Moganshan Road, 1f. island6 Shack was aimed at promoting promising young curators by giving them a platform on which they could showcase their curatorial talents. Directed by Alejandra Pinggera (Spring 2009), Konstantin Bayer, Julia Scorna & Gao Chang (Winter 2009), island6 Shack hosted a number of small exhibitions.
Part of the island6 Lab was moved to 249 Aomen Road in January 2008. Growing demand for the unique art pieces of the resident collective necessitated a larger production space and workshop. After renovations to the island6 Lab on Moganshan Road opened up an in-house production unit in December 2008, the workshop was relocated back to adjoin the arts center.
From January to April 2010, the arts center ran a photography studio on 100 Aomen Road. It was aimed at developing photographic art amongst young Chinese photographers and included a dark room in its facilities.
After six successful years in Shanghai, the Liu Dao spirit could no longer be contained, and island6 made a second home in Hong Kong in June of 2012. Located in the historic district of Sheung Wan, island6 Hong Kong imparts Liu Dao’s collaborative vision in the city’s burgeoning arts district. Once it got a taste of wanderlust, island6 was hooked, and soon opened a second space in Shanghai. The island6 ShGarden blossomed in the spring of 2013. Like the island6 main gallery, the ShGarden is located in Shanghai’s M50 arts district, in a light-filled, ground-floor space formerly occupied by Studio Rouge. In the fall of that same year, the island6 Bund location opened its doors. True to Liu Dao’s dedication to blending the old and the new, the island6 Bund space made its home in a neo-classical Victorian building that overlooks the flashing Pudong skyline. After firmly establishing itself in the Shanghai and Hong Kong art scenes, Liu Dao set out for the tropical paradise of Phuket, where island6 Marina opened in March of 2014. Nestled in the glamorous Royal Phuket Marina, island6 Marina brings Liu Dao’s vision to a new audience.
In order to create an interactive opportunity for artists to build a relationship with the city, and to channel its unique dynamic into creative energy an artist residency program was set up in May 2006. The program allowed artists from all over the world to live in Shanghai and produce site-specific work.
The objective of the program was to invite 2 to 4 artists at a time for a minimum stay period of 4 weeks of intensive production, which would then be followed by an exhibition.
Resident artists are housed near the Shanghai University and work with over 750sqm of space including an exhibition area and production studio. As an arts center that was founded by artists, and is entirely run by artists, island6 maintains a close relation to the resident artists and their work in progress through weekly art criticism, daily assistantship, monthly portfolio review and monthly applications to ongoing exhibitions.
The program is a member of the International Artist-in-Residence Organizations Res Artis and Trans Artists Foundation. Since May 2006, island6 has sponsored 139 resident artists, organized 39 exhibitions and helped in the creation of 2000 art projects.
Since June 2010, island6 has closed its international residency application. Due to the success of its Chinese artist residency program, it now focuses only on Chinese national artists and is by invitation only.
island6 has worked with hundreds of guest artists from all over the world since 2006. More than 500 artists from 21 different countries have been exhibited at the center.
Currently, island6 is primarily focused on producing and promoting the work of its in-house art collective Liu Dao.