Blanco Visits Beijing and Shanghai

China has it’s own graffiti and Street Art scene, but you don’t hear too much about it. You can get a tour of local Street Art and graffiti in Beijing, check out sites like FatCap and of course the pool on Flickr. New York graff legend Daze even had a show at a gallery here a couple of years ago. According to some state media reports, portions of the Great Wall were the focus of a 2004 archaeological study showing graffiti was popular a long time ago, as crafted by wives of soldiers, who “decorated parts of the wall with images of clouds, lotus blossoms and ‘fluffy balls’ (xiuqiu), ‘symbols of peace and love’.  Right now it appears to be a common practice of tourists to carve their names into the bricks, which seems a bit more damaging than a Krinks marker, to tell the truth.

New York Street Artist Blanco did a little touring around Beijing and Shanghai last week and took a few pictures to send back home during the tour. He liked finding some familiar names in an unfamiliar country, and he was even surprised. Along with a few quick pictures he caught on the way, he wrote to tell us about what he saw. Here’s what he says:

“I went to the Great Wall like all tourists do and I discovered Neckface tags on almost every garbage can I walked past.

Nasty Neckface in Beijing one the Great Wall (photo © Blanco)

In comparison to Beijing, which seems bureaucratic like Washington DC, Shanghai seems to be a lot like NYC, with more going on culturally, massive apartment buildings sprouting up all over, and a lot of money running through it.

A door with several tags by Utah and Ether in Shanghai (photo © Blanco)

In Shanghai I went to the French Concession neighborhood  and I found a door with several tags from Utah and Ether, which made my day. It was kind of cool because I also found a Utah tag when I was in Rome three years ago and I don’t know Utah but just knowing that she is from NYC and has been in the same exact places as me is kind of comforting.

Blanco in Shanghai (photo © Blanco)

The next day I went to this art neighborhood that has a graff wall where it’s legal to paint and there were some pretty good pieces but I get a little bored with legal pieces.

Vhils in Shanghai (photo © Blanco)

After some more walking I turned a corner and found an amazing piece by Vhils and a little while later, in a more secluded spot, I found a second Vhils piece. Unfortunately it is kind of blurry – I couldn’t get a great picture of it because it was getting dark and it was in a dimly lit hallway with only one exit. I was alone and I could hear someone moving on the second floor of the abandoned building so I took a couple shots before I got scared and left but both pieces were pretty cool.” ~ Blanco

Vhils in Shanghai (photo © Blanco)


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Through the Eyes of Aiko: A Personal View of Street Art

A BSA Treat – Lady Aiko writes an essay remembering her early days in New York and her recent trip to Shanghai


Street Artist Aiko is known for her powerful and sexy depictions of women – whether they are stencils, silkscreens or collage.

Aiko's site welcomes Christmas with this image that is typical of the strong and overtly sexual nature of some recent works.
Aiko’s site welcomes Christmas with this image that is typical of the strong and overtly sexual nature of some recent works.

The Tokyo-born founding member of Faile is a world tavelling artist, with her hometown these days in Brooklyn.

Among the shows she has participated in recently were the LOVE MONSTER solo exhibition at Joshua Liner Gallery NYC, the Apocalypse Wow exhibition at MACRO Future in Rome Italy, and three shows this past week in the Art Basel Miami Beach fair; “The Wynwood Walls” with Deitch Projects, “Graffiti Gone Global” with James and Karla Murray and “Mural for Electric Pickle” at Primary Flight.

"Love Monster" a piece at the Joshua Liner Gallery by Aiko
“Love Monster” a piece at the Joshua Liner Gallery by Aiko

Aside from all that fabulous globe-trotting, Aiko is a also a pretty down-to-earth person who enjoys work with artists and giving to the community. She has taken part in a number of murals in New York over the last few years as part of the Younity Collective, a 40+ member group of women in NYC who love to paint large projects together.

This image by Aiko comes from an piece she put in the
This image by Aiko comes from an piece she put in the Bicycle Film Festival Show in New York this summer

We are very excited that Aiko has written a very nice piece for BSA detailing her recent experiences in Shanghai, China this fall. In it she recalls a small event that recalled her early memories of starting out as a New Yorker and a street artist.

Shanghai street scene (photo by Aiko)
Shanghai street scene (photo by Aiko)

My Shanghai Evening
by Aiko

The last time I visited Shanghai was in the spring of 2006. It’s been only 3 years but it seems like the city became much more powerful, more of a commercial center, and more developed. Instead of finding my favorite local massage place and cute junk stores that I liked to go to, I found many squares with new buildings, luxury stores, offices, restaurants, bars, and international chains like Starbucks and Burger King.

The largest city in China, Shanghai is getting ready to hold World Expo next year. Shanghai’s landmark, The Bund, is getting fully renovated for the event and tall new buildings are flashing colorful lights and neon signs in the night sky. The whole city is full of dust caused by the never-ending demolition and construction.

The neighborhood of Mo Gan Shan Lu reminds me a bit of Chelsea and Soho in NYC; old industrial warehouses turned into Chinese contemporary art galleries. I’ve heard that there is a lot of tourist traffic from different countries that comes to shop for very expensive art there. As a sharp contrast, there are long graffiti walls and abandoned houses on the other side of the same street. I am sure they will be torn down and turned into more fancy buildings soon. Knowing this, I had a sudden impulse to leave a little piece of my art on this street before heading back to Brooklyn.

A typical scene of a neighborhood under construction (photo by Aiko)
A typical scene of a neighborhood under construction (photo by Aiko)

At 8pm that night, I arrived in Mo Gan Shan Lu on that same street. This was when I realized that some of those “abandoned” houses are actually not abandoned. Some of these darkened houses still have families living there; they were having dinner and drinking on the street with small chairs and tables.  I got a little nervous. What if these people start to scream at me and call the police? What if they want to charge me money or create another kind of issue?  I’ve had some trouble like that before in different cities and I was worried that this may be the moment when my first street art experience in Shanghai could be end up as the worst one…

I thought for a moment and said to myself, “Well. Let me just hit it. It takes only a few minutes anyway.”

One of the pieces made expecially for this trip. (photo by Aiko)
One of the pieces made expecially for this trip. (photo by Aiko)

As soon as I started spraying on the wall, people in the neighborhood also noticed the noise and the smell of a stranger. I had to keep going – I didn’t want to leave an unfinished piece there. A few people walked toward me and as they came closer they began talking to me.  I don’t understand Chinese, but their voices were very loud. Their loud voices attracted other people, who began to gather around me. I kept only looking at the wall until I finished it.

When I was finished, I looked around. I didn’t realize until then but I had a large audience standing behind me watching and talking.  Men and women, even a couple of security guards from across the street.

I said “Ni hao (hello)” with big smile, then “Hao?(good work?)”. A few of the guys started yelling at the painted wall, and it sounded to me like they were very upset. I asked my friend to translate.

“You don’t need a bikini on her. Next time you should better paint her just naked,” said one drunk man as he pointed out the breast. This made all of us begin laughing.

“Oh watch, a cop is coming!,” somebody else said. They pointed to an old lady slowly walking towards us to see what was happening. We all laughed at that joke too.

Amazingly, it seems like I was some entertainment for their evening and we all had a little moment together.  My mission had ended very well!

A well-dressed friend poses in front of Aiko's new pieces (photo by Aiko)

A well-dressed friend poses in front of Aiko's new pieces (photo by Aiko)

That night overlaps with memories of my early street art experiences in NYC. When I arrived in NY, I was not able to speak English at all and I felt a great disability because of it. Art was (and still is) my language to communicate with people and to get to know about a city.  I am happy to create art, share with friends and random people who I meet in the public sphere and I like to see them enjoying my art.  My experience on that night made me think about how I first got into street art and why I love street art again.

Aiko in context. (photo by Aiko)

Aiko in context. (photo by Aiko)

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