The Cloister Project

2021.12.03 Friday

The Cloister Project is Macalline Art Center’s special project space in Shanghai. Located on the second floor of the Cloister Apartments at No. 62 Fuxing West Road, Shanghai, the Cloister Project is a non-profit space for exhibitions, public education, and cultural exchange. Since November 2020, the Cloister Project has held ten exhibitions, public programs, and screenings, with further programming planned for 2021-2022.

The Cloister Project is situated on the fringes of Shanghai’s urban culture, embracing artistic intuition and novel creativity. The Cloister Project is the successor of the cultural salon, a place of ongoing encounters. The invited artists, curators, writers, and researchers are constantly shifting between the roles of host and guest, exploring the heterogeneity and spirituality of an artistic community today based on the common value of mutual respect.

The Cloisters Apartments was once called huating (a reception room or parlor), an elegant word that has many layers of meaning. Shao Xunmei wrote, “A ‘salon’ is a guest reception room (huikeshi), but I have translated it as huating so that it would literally sound more appealing.” In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Salon des Indépendants became an important annual exhibition for Parisian painters working in new styles, and it served as a springboard for the Neo-Impressionist, Cubist, Expressionist, and Abstract movements. However, in the context of Republican Shanghai, the French word salon, which simultaneously indicated a living room, a group of people, and an exhibition system was transformed into a cultural parlor (wenyi keting), a reception room (huating), and a salon (shalong), and became a gathering place for intellectuals and social elites. At their worst, these gatherings had pretensions of culture, and at their best, they were hotbeds for the spread of Western learning in the East and the modernization of culture and art. As a microcosm of a new metropolitan culture unique to Shanghai, the salon was considered a “good society” in miniature, and a “cultural core” for a larger “good society.” The Shanghai Aestheticism born of salon culture, like nineteenth-century European Aestheticism, explored a path of artistic autonomy. However, in contrast to the European Aestheticists’ radical pursuit of spirituality and opposition to the worldly and commonplace, Shanghai Aestheticism advocated more for the aesthetic lifestyle, which happened to coincide with Republican-era Westernization and industrialization. The movement inevitably devolved into unchecked aestheticism and became the victim of commercialized culture.

In rethinking the meaning of artistic activity, we now need to test the boundaries and relationships among art, politics, and business, and explore a renewal of the artistic soul through these interpersonal interactions. Xu Zhongnian advocated for salons: “In France, the gatherings of artistic and cultural personages are called ‘salons’… The hosts of these salons are very beautiful, very clever, or very distinguished ladies… Sometimes, an expert or luminary will give an informal lecture, sometimes a film will be shown, and still other times, someone will turn on the wireless for dancing… I think that it wouldn’t hurt for us to imitate this custom.”

*The Cloister Project is supported by THE SHOUTER and Macalline Art Center.


About The Cloisters Apartments

The Cloisters Apartments was designed and built in a classic Spanish style by Shanghai’s most important architecture firm and foreign company in 1930. It has a north and a south building, joined by a cloister from which the building gets its name. In 1989, it was named a Shanghai Municipal Protected Building and included in Shanghai’s first group of Superb Historical Buildings. In the 1930s, the Cloisters Apartments played a key role in Shanghai’s salon culture. Building resident and salon hostess Bernardine Szold-Fritz was a central figure in Shanghai’s expatriate social scene. She held a salon every Sunday that welcomed many of China’s luminaries, including Hu Shi, Shao Xunmei, Lin Weiyin, Mei Lanfang, Lin Yutang, and Miguel Covarrubias.


A high-end design furniture buyer, THE SHOUTER brings together art and design products that has set the trends in the Chinese market. We advocate the concept of ‘design is fun’, aiming to serve customers who pursue unique aesthetics and fun experience for their homes. THE SHOUTER is dedicated to presenting cutting-edge international design furniture, independent co-branded design and sought-after products of limited-edition.


The Macalline Center of Art (MACA) is a non-profit art institution located in the 798 Art District of Beijing and officially inaugurated its space on January 15, 2022. Occupying a two-story building with a total area of 900 square meters, MACA unites artists, curators, and other art and cultural practitioners from around the world. Through its diverse, ongoing, and collaborative approaches, the Center establishes a new site on the contemporary art scene. Guided by the “work of artists” and backed by interdisciplinary research, the Center aims to bring together a community passionate about art and devoted to the “contemporary” moment so as to respond proactively to our rapidly evolving times.