The writing on the wall

I don’t know the reasons  – perhaps it’s due to the threat of harsh punishment, or a restricted supply of spraycans, or it’s just not the done thing – but you don’t get to see a lot of graffiti in the streets of Shanghai.  So, although I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the texta arts, it has become enough of a novelty to warrant my attention  … not to mention a whole blog post.


As luck would have it, my very own neighbourhood appears to a hotbed of random street scribbling.  I blame the teenage children of expats, attracted to – and later, disinhibited by – the many small bars of the area.  What better way to polish off a night in the pub than to deface some poor street vendor’s trolley?  And what better target for your pre-adult angst?

The real focus for graffiti in Shanghai is Moganshan Road, a street where industrial sites are slowing being transformed into art galleries and studios.  In an uncharacteristic move, the government has surrendered a very long wall on one side of the street to graffiti artists.  Supposedly, a lot of the art contains anti-government sentiment, but artists use foreign languages to avoid detection.


Occasionally you see some very nice stencil and poster art too.

And some very cute artistic expressions by the younger members of the street art fraternity.

A more common sight is the display of telephone numbers on the walls of houses and shops and factories.


I’m told that these are just spruiking the most mundane of products – hardware and farm machinery and stuff.  But their unknown meaning (at least, to my foreign eyes) and scrawled randomness lend them a sort of artistic merit.

Another common sight is the government community service notice.

You would be excused for not realising … but this very special work explains the certain pathway from snorting cocaine (or perhaps, having a particularly runny nose …) to joyfully begging in the streets to stealing handbags (fake Louis Vuitton, for sure) to getting stuck in a barrel.


I am looking forward to a similar series on the evils of graffiti.  And that would be as close to ironic as China gets.


2 Responses to The writing on the wall

  1. Charlie says:

    I didn’t know such ‘criminal’ activity occurred on Shanghai streets – Chinese tagging somehow seems bizarre – or perhaps I’m just more surprised it doesn’t get cleaned up. I like the texture of the sandstone wall – nice pic

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