Spring Onions Seize the Spotlight in Exhibition of Shanghai Lockdown Art

Another day, another collection of comical lockdown art from Shanghai, this time featuring an essential allium in Chinese cuisine

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7 months ago 2 mins read

On April 26, Shanghainese art curator and critic Lin Mingjie took to WeChat to announce that he was planning an online photography exhibition and welcomed lockdown art submissions. Titled The Age of Spring Onions (葱荣岁月云摄影展), the collection promised to pay tribute to Shanghai’s current predicament, a time when “Coca-Cola is considered a luxury item in Shanghai.”

“I noticed that many friends have started to cultivate vegetables at home, especially spring onions,” said the curator in his notice. “It has given me the idea to ask people to send me pictures of their projects.”

To Lin’s surprise, the invite was met with a flood of swift and creative responses. These pictures range from realistic to abstract and artistic to philosophical and capture a strange time in Shanghai when (for many) fresh vegetables are scarce and precious.

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‘Five Senses Filled with Spring Onions’ by Hu Jianjun

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‘Dance of Lines’ by Shi Mo

The spring onion, an essential allium in Chinese cuisine, is as ubiquitous in Shanghai as, say, leeks in Paris. For instance, it is a crucial ingredient in scallion oil noodles, a household favorite in Shanghai. Therefore, Lin’s choice of ‘muse’ for his online art exhibition did not come out of the blue.

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‘Untitled’ by Hong Jian

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‘Lush’ by Xiao Yi

One standout photograph in The Age of Spring Onions is titled ‘Baked Fish with Spring Onions.’ Contributed by Xu Mingsong, the picture depicts spring onions in the blurred foreground while a painting of fish — a symbol of abundance in Chinese culture — looms on a plate in the background, as if just out of reach.

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‘Baked Fish with Spring Onions’ by Xu Mingsong

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‘Untitled’ by Miao Xiaoyi

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‘Save the Root’ by Yu Tian

Another artist combined spring onions with home Covid tests to create a work of art alluding to endless rounds of self-testing during the lockdown.

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‘Spring Onion’ by Shen Haopeng

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‘Spring Onions Toward White Hazmat Suit-clad Workers’ by Marco

Curator Lin, who described the project as a “self-entertaining” activity, must have had a lot of fun sifting through the art submissions (we know we did) before publishing the online exhibition as a WeChat article. Netizens viewed the spring onion-themed photographs more than 100,000 times in just a few hours.

One of the top comments reads, “This is both entertaining and meaningful. It is a record of our times and will allow us to reflect on this moment years later.”

Another netizen echoed the above sentiment, writing, “This captures the spirit of Shanghai, which will remain forever despite these difficult times.”

A realist, Lin reminded his audience that the current craze over spring onion cultivation probably wouldn’t last long once the lockdown is lifted: “Spring onions grow fast in contrast to our wisdom,” concluded Lin in the article.

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All images courtesy of the artists and curator Lin Mingjie

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