The Formation and Transformation of the Modern Urban Art Scene in Shanghai: A Historical GIS Approach, 1912-1948

Authors: Hui Lin*, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Jane Zheng, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Peiyao Zhang, Lyon University, Zhen Fan, Fudan University, Yuesang Leung, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Topics: History of Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, China
Keywords: historical GIS, Shanghai, art, urbanism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Delaware A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This research applies the historical GIS approach to understand “modernity” in twentieth-century Chinese art history. Recent scholarship has been examining the social context of art organizations, but the connection between the geographic distribution of artists and the urban context is a yet unexplored issue. The emergence of clusters of artists, if any, has been argued to be an important indicator of dense cultural exchange and co-learning activities in urban geography. Through the exploration of the geographic distribution pattern of Shanghai artists during the Republican period, this research aims to: (1) develop a database of the locations of artists’ residences and workplaces, the locations of business services and cultural organizations and facilities; and (2) analyze the spatial features of artists’ geographic distribution and their relationships with the organizations and infrastructure. The team searched for artists’ addresses from three sources, including related archives, artists’ business advertisements, and inter-artists’ correspondence. Profiles of 1,291 artists were recorded. The GIS team created the basic structure and metadata. It acquired large-scale digital city maps of Shanghai, georeferenced and digitized two of them, and built up vector maps. Spatial distribution of artists was mapped out and analyzed. This research shows that the spatial distribution of artists was featured by a combination of clustering and dispersion. The British Concession and French Concession were the two main districts of concentration. However, across ages, most artists were dispersed throughout the city. The results downplay the importance of geographic agglomeration in creating a creative milieu for artists.

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