Shanghai 2002

11 June - 10 July 2016


The women of China are often pictured in the West with an outdated, stereotypical image of submissive and subjugated ladies, quietly waiting at the beck and call of men. Throughout China, the women of Shanghai are renowned for being beautiful and delicate creatures. But at home they are known as “tricky wives” who make their husbands do as they say. At the office, they are relentless professionals who display equal, if not more, competitiveness than the men. These women likewise take the lead all over China in fashion, displaying such decorous and audacious taste alike as to keepthe country watching.


In 2002, Bettina Rheims, accompanied by the novelist Serge Bramly, released a series of photographs of women from Shanghai that were taken in the course of two extended stays. Fourteen years later, following the retrospective paying homage to the off beat photographer at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) in Paris in January 2016, this exhibition displaying 40 portraits of Shanghainese women is presented in China for the first time.


Bettina Rheims travels through Shanghai capturing the bodies or the faces of women from across the whole social spectrum: dancers, abbesses, ramblers, schoolgirls, neighbourhood guardians, actresses, etc. Since the 1980s in work like Female Trouble and Modern Lovers, Bettina Rheims’ photography has explored issues attached to representations of the feminine along with androgynous and transsexual beauty. Her work challenges the borders between the body and identity.




Bettina Rheims was by turn, a model, a journalist, an art gallerist before devoting herself to photography. In 1978, she made her name with a first series of naked erotic dancers. Following that, she released portraits of well-known personalities and actresses for a number of magazines in France, Europe, and New York, as well as making advertising films. In 1994, she was awarded the Grand Prix for photography of the city of Paris.


Serge Bramly is a writer, photographer, art critic and historian of Art, he received numerous literature prizes including for his biography of “Leonardo da Vinci”. Since 1992, he has co-produced many projects with Bettina Rheims including “Shanghai”, INRI, Rose c’est Paris, as well as many art retrospectives around the world; his latest book: “Transparency andreflection” ( La transparence et le reflet), depict the history of “glass” throughout arts and civilizations.