E-mail Dispatch: Shanghai

This season one thing is clear: it’s all about contemporary art in Shanghai—surprising, since the genre’s long been considered politically sensitive in China. But in the past few years alone, there’s been the opening of the architecturally dazzling Zendai Museum of Modern Art in the Pudong neighborhood as well as the construction of the Museum of Contemporary Art in the middle of People’s Park, in the city center. And now the crop of warehouse galleries on Moganshan Road is expanding rapidly—the area is suddenly the unofficial SoHo of Shanghai!

Meanwhile, the deconstruction and reconception of the Bund area for the 2010 World Expo is the most gargantuan project I’ve ever encountered. Existing structures are being demolished to make way for skyscrapers, stadiums, and wide boulevards lined with chic shops, hotels, and restaurants; a Peninsula hotel and Saks Fifth Avenue are on the way. Dolce & Gabbana recently opened at 6 on the Bund, the latest renovated manse in the neighborhood, and it’s done up in black glass and chandeliers, with fur-walled VIP rooms.

Another reason for celebration: the oppressive reign of massive five-star chains has ended with M Suites (msuites.com.cn), a 24-room boutique hotel inside the stunning Pier One (88 Yi Chang Rd., Suzhou Creek, 86-21/5155-8318), an upscale but funky space that also houses the Mimosa Supperclub (mimosasupperclub.com), run by Michelin-starred chef Stefan Stiller, and the ultrastylish Monsoon cocktail bar (monsoonbar.com.cn), which has views of Suzhou Creek. The Supperclub has stiff competition, though, in the form of the famed Family Li Imperial Cuisine (volgroup.com.cn). This longtime Beijing hot spot—which serves recipes passed down from a Qing dynasty imperial guard—has opened its new Shanghai branch in a snazzy designer venue. In keeping with the Shanghainese love of all things exceedingly opulent, the place is dripping with gold and marble. Make your reservations now—its book is already stuffed to the gills!