Art, Fast Food, and Fun in the Sun

According to Frommer’s the Shanghai Art Museum occupies the former clock tower building which was erected in 1933 marking the original location of the grandstands of the colonial racecourse. People’s Square is where that racecourse used to be.

Also, according to Frommer’s, it costs 20 Yuan to enter the museum. It cost us nothing. I have no idea why. I don’t know if Thursdays are free, or if the woman at the ticket desk saw that I was going to attempt to bring two small children with me and she thought she would do me a favor of some kind. Whatever. For the price of a Metro ticket and a short walk we entered the Shanghai Art Museum.

The art was good. Even Henry saw some things he liked, like this piece, titled “Corridor” by Szeto Lap

and this piece, titled “Purple Homeland” by Zhang Xiaoming.

I liked those, too. There were two companion pieces, “Yellow Homeland” and “Green Homeland.” Henry pointed out that they were all the same “painting” but in different colors. I explained to him that the different colors provide a different mood for each painting. He said, “hmm.”

There was also a series of paintings that were “bumpy” as Henry called them. He said the farther back you stood, the better you could see the pictures. I talked a little bit about texture, how the painter used lots of paint and several layers to get that effect.

I have no idea if any of what I was telling my son will take hold, but I wanted to feed his curiosity.

These three pieces also caught my eye.

“Screened Night Scene II” by Guo Jianlian

“Grey Skirts” by Zhang Xiaoming

“A Sitting Dancer II” by Yang Canjun

The kids both liked this sculpture called, “Chair Person.” I had to remind Meredith not to touch it….

Two of the upper floors had exhibits of Chinese art but all of the titles and names were in Chinese. No English. No French. No other language. This was frustrating, because these looked to be an exhibit of historical pieces on silk screen and contemporary takes on historical pieces. But I couldn’t tell. The kids liked it because there was space to run around.

For lunch, I opted to leave the museum and look around. There is a highly-touted restaurant on the museum’s 5th floor called Kathleen’s 5. I’ve seen the prices for Kathleen’s 5. You can see them, too. It would be overpriced in the U.S.

Instead, we ate at Burger King. The kids had their usual: french fries. I ordered and ate the first hamburger from Burger King that I’ve eaten in years. It’s been so long that I don’t remember. I have to say, after three-and-a-half weeks of picture menus, misspoken and misunderstood Mandarin, and mystery meals, that mushroom and swiss double burger with fries and a coke tasted good. (Though the swiss cheese didn’t taste very Swiss.) Not nearly as good as Cha Shao Bao or Xiao Long Bao, or black bean and garlic pork, or sushi or Lillian Cake’s egg tarts, but it was good enough for lunch today.

(A digression. Shortly after we had sat down in the Burger King, located in the basement food court of a department store across from People’s Square, Henry said he needed to use the potty. When kids say they have to use the potty, that means they have to use the potty RIGHT NOW.

The restaurants in Shanghai don’t have their own restrooms. So I had to leave Meredith with our food. I couldn’t take her with, because then the food would get dumped by the cleaning staff. I raced with Henry to find the restroom. It took us through the back of the restaurant and around and back to where we had entered (there are two entrances to this BK.) until I found where the restrooms were located. I told Henry to turn around and to remember to come back through in the way we had come in, pointing out how we had gotten turned around by the signs pointing to where the restrooms were located. I showed him the way into the restrooms, then I ran back to where Meredith was, still munching merrily on her fries. Henry eventually made his way back to where we were sitting.

Sometimes, it’s these little frustrations that drive me absolutely crazy. If there had been a restroom inside the restaurant, I could have sent Henry there and not been forced to leave Meredith all by herself.)

After lunch, I fulfilled a promise I had made to the kids. I had promised them that after we went to the art museum, that we would shoot their toys in the park. They had been wanting to do that since my wife bought them from some street vendor plying foreigners down in the Yu Yuan Bazaar by the Huxingting Tea House Monday night.

I pulled the toys out of my small back pack and I showed the kids how to shoot them up in the air. You hook the rubber band on the top, pull back (like a slingshot) and launch it into the air. There’s even a light on them, so at night these shooters glows as they fly.

Meredith got frustrated and bored, and decided to run around the trees.

Before we left the park we had a good view of some important buildings that border People’s Square.

Here’s the Shanghai No. 1 Department Store, where the service is as firm and perfunctory as the bricks on the building itself.

Last week I bought a small Transformer for Henry there to replace the broken toy axe from Hangzhou. Once we decided on the toy (in the very very tiny toy department) a woman strode out of nowhere to take it out of my hand, went over to a counter, wrote out a two-ply receipt, barked at me to go in the direction where she was pointing, to a man seated behind another counter where I handed him the two-ply receipt, paid, then he handed me the top sheet with my minimal change, pointed for me to go away, then the woman handed me the toy in a small paper bag. It wasn’t exactly a warm sales experience.

Two other buildings are related to one another and they are on opposite ends of the square.

Here’s where Gandalf was trapped by Saruman in The Lord of the Rings.

At the other end is where the Eye of Sauron appears at night.

Chinese Paparazzi Count: 1

No one seemed to notice us or paid us any special attention. I think the crowd at the art museum is different than at other Tourist Attractions. It was nice. In the square, I had a wonderful conversation with some Chinese tourists from Anhui province. They were curious about us; me with the two kids and their shooter toys. They assumed I must work in Shanghai and be English. I told them we were American and that I was a writer, and how my wife was a professor teaching a summer course for a month. One woman remarked that Henry was skinny. I said, “like father, like son” and pointed to my legs. They laughed.

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