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  • Jun 23, 2016

Shanghai's Bank Gallery Forced Out of Heritage Building

Exterior view of the Bank Union Building, Shanghai, where BANK gallery was located before it was evicted. The space officially closed on June 19, 2016. Photo by Michael Young for ArtAsiaPacific. 

Yet another private tenant of a Chinese government space has been forced onto the streets. Since September 2013, BANK gallery—the home of Mabsociety, an international consulting, curatorial and research firm founded in 2012 by Mathieu Borysevicz—had inhabited the historic Bank Union Building on Xianggang Lane, near Shanghai’s historic Bund area. A multi-purpose, two-story space that not only served as the studio for Mabsociety, but also provided a venue for Mabsociety’s exhibitions, BANK was forced by Chinese government authorities to close its doors on June 19, with merely a six-day notice.

In an email exchange with ArtAsiaPacific, Borysevicz expressed his disappointment about the eviction, but remains optimistic about forthcoming possibilities for BANK: “[T]his is certainly not the end of BANK. In fact, while we were initially heartbroken and extremely inconvenienced, we are very positive about the future. This is the end of a chapter but certainly not the book.”

The forced exodus is a result of an ordinance from the People’s Republic that prohibits private entities from renting properties owned by the state. A part of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption measures that began in 2012, the ordinance has wreaked havoc on a number of businesses in the area, including the Shanghai branch of James Cohan Gallery, which was shut in 2015.

BANK was created in 2012 as an alternative to the dominating “white cube” gallery model, aiming to reflect the messier aspects of creating art onto the gallery itself. Its bare-bones headquarters in the decrepit pre-war building embodied BANK’s philosophies and created a unique space in which exhibitions, performances, book launches and other events were frequently held. In its two-and-a-half years of operation, BANK exhibited work by a total of 92 artists, including solo exhibitions of Xu Bing, Hito Steyerl and Chen Tianzhuo.

Having already procured a new storage facility, Borysevicz is now on the hunt for the next exhibition space. “As our original space was quite special and unusual, we hope to find something equally as exciting,” said Borysevicz. He adds: “Recent government restrictions and the inflated property market in Shanghai will certainly make this challenging, but we’ve already seen some great spaces and hope to decide as soon as possible.”