If you find yourself with some downtime while you are in Guangzhou, but want to spend it on something a little more refined than visiting your usual expat watering hole, why not try checking out the local art scene? If you have any interest in fine art or Chinese history and culture, there are several great places to visit that are both low in cost and rich in spectacle.
Best for anyone with a week to kill:
The first place you should try is definitely the Guangdong Museum of Art（广东美术馆 http://www.gdmoa.org/ ) Located at 38 Yanyu Road, Er-sha Island and easily accessible by the 89, 194, and 248 buses.
This enormous museum has 12 exhibition halls that show works in mediums ranging from photography to sculpture to abstract paintings. There is a great deal to see; so much so that it makes sense to visit more than once. Current exhibitions include Call of Beauty, Professor Zhoubo’s selections of notable women’s portraits, Youth Apartment, a 3-part abstract look at the sentiments of Guangzhou’s youth culture, and the particularly wonderful The Defining Photography of Juan I-Jong.
Two other sections of the museum that are worthy of note are the Pan He Sculpture Garden (particularly the epic sculpture entitled “Glaive Charge”) and the Sichuan Earthquake sculpture exhibition on the second floor.
Visiting hours are from 9am-5pm (closed on Mondays). You may be asked to pay a 15RMB admission fee (7RMB for students), but it is sometimes waived during exhibitions. The museum also has a very nice, though highly priced, restaurant
Best for mastering the art of watercolour
Another particularly good museum is the Guangzhou Museum of Art（广州艺术博物院） Located at 13 Luhu Road, right next to the Luhu Lake, you can get to this museum by taking the 191 bus to Xiao Bei Road and walking the short distance from Lujing Road to Luhu.
This museum was built 40 years ago and focuses on traditional Chinese art rather than modern exhibitions. It has an extensive collection of ceramic works and pieces of Chinese calligraphy that were written by well known Chinese masters such as Lai Shaoqi, Zhao Shao’ang, and Lao Binxiong. The collection of traditional oil and water color paintings is a particular treat for anyone who enjoys Chinese history or traditional Chinese art. As an additional treat, the museum has a fairly extensive garden that is a nice break from the city that surrounds it. Visiting hours are 9am-5pm, and entry is 20RMB.
Best for getting medieval on your art
Another good site for viewing ancient Chinese art is the Yuexiu Art Gallery. Located at the center of the Yuexiu Park (Metro line 2), this small gallery has a lot to offer when it comes to history as well as art. Upon entering, you will find several tablets that will give you a brief historical introduction to Guangzhou as a trading port, followed by numerous examples of 18th century Chinese clothing as well as the looms that were used to make them. On the third floor there are a fair number of ceramic and porcelain wares from the Qing dynasty as well as carved ivory tusks. Admission to the gallery is 10RMB.
Quick tip: If you’re pushed for time, you’re not missing much if you skip the Geological and Archeological exhibitions in the adjacent hall.
Best for subterranean subversion
Finally, the Art 64 Gallery on Shamian Island is a great place to stop if you’ve had your fill of history. Located at 64 Shamian Dajie, the Art 64 Gallery takes pride in showcasing the work of “up and coming” artists whose work is not bound by a specific audience, and is therefore more free to experiment. The size of the venue – a small space in the basement of a shopping complex – belies the strength of its collection. There are several small sculptures, but the emphasis of the gallery is on oil-based paintings. If you like independent art, this underground gallery (both literally and figuratively) is definitely worth a visit. Open from 9.30am-9pm.
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