If you don’t know the name Basmat Levin, chances are you’ve already seen her works. Whether it’s the entrance at Ginger or the private dining room at M Glam, this Jerusalem-born painter is no stranger to adorning the city with exuberant brushstrokes.
And it all started in 2005.
At the time, Shanghai was meant to fit into a larger globetrotting project for the Levin family. The group of four had left their respective jobs and schools in New York behind for a view from the Machu Picchu and a paddle around the Galápagos Islands. Then Shanghai happened.
“Shanghai is so full of possibilities.” Levin admits during our conversation at her M50 studio. For her, it's not just the city, but also the individuals who shape the Shanghai landscape. From painting friends and pedestrians to experimenting with faces from old masterpieces, portraiture remains an integral part of Levin’s repertoire.
“I paint a lot, and fast - 15 at once.” She gestures towards the neatly arranged studio space which doesn’t quite reflect the implied state of creative chaos. “But I don’t think ‘now I paint faces,’ or ‘now I paint flowers.’ You don’t just eat one kind of food throughout the day. It’s always a mix.”
As iconic as the faces are, it’s her floral patterns which capture the imagination of local designers. The collaboration with fashion designer Chris Chang saw her patterns enlarged on garments and gowns, likewise with a line of comfy sneakers by Denise Huang (Suzhou Cobbler). Lately, planners behind the Miracle Gardens project at Pujiang Country Park have also invited Levin to festoon their gardens with her prints and installations.
While the city beyond the confines of M50 calls for a scoop of her creative touch, it’s possible that Levin isn’t too precious about her own works after all.
“I love seeing my work have a new life, instead of just being a painting on the wall,” she exclaims. Levin is working on other projects as we speak. One being an installation inside a business building at Times Square, New York and the other a group show at MoCA. Given the pace at which these cities evolve, it’s impossible for either of us to predict what the future holds. The only safe thing to assume is Levin will continue to paint, as she has always done.
Visit Basmat Levin’s studio at Room 215, Building 4, 50 Moganshan Lu. See a listing for M50 here.