Wednesday, 10 November 2010
798 Art District, Beijing
This summer I spent just under 2 months living in Beijing. It is an amazing city, and it really felt like I was living in the midst of significance, rapid change and excitement. There are lots of things I miss about being in that vast city, but the thing I miss most is being able to take several buses and metro lines to the Art district in Chaoyang
The root of the rebellion lies in the manipulation and deconstruction of communist propaganda, although it is so common now in 798 that you can become a little saturated by the political satire.
Modern art in China, as 798's central Originalty Square might suggest, is a reasonably underdeveloped concept due to Chairman Mao and his stifling communist regime. But from underground Beijing's creatives rebelled, taking over an abandoned factory complex and transforming it in to a theme park of modern art. The art district is now a complex of commercial and fine art galleries, installation and outdoor sculpture, souvenir shops and western-style cafes.
It is a genuinely awe-inspiring place where a community of artists are working hard to promote and inspire modern art in China, giving everybody a platform to experience and create.
Civilised Chaoyang is the ideal location, it is Beijing's rich and up and coming district. Essentially it is the place to be.
There is also an absolute gem of an institution to be found at the heart of the district; UCCA, Ullens Contemporary Chinese Art hosts magnificent, if small, shows. While you can spend hours trawling through galleries and not finding anything of particular value, UCCA, once it has been located on the map, will never fail to disappoint.
An example of the graffiti which makes the complex a living and breathing canvas for art and statement.
In the short time I was living in Beijing I spent four days in the art district, and I wish I could have had more. It just had the right atmosphere, perhaps you would spend most of your time drink iced coffees in cafes, but it was enough that you had been there, in the midst of it all.
The old factories of an abandoned uniformed industrialism are the perfect setting for regenerative modern art.
There is information about 798 on wikipedia, it might help to search for 'Jiuxinqiao factory complex'. And if you want directions...take the 909 bus from liangmaqiao station and get off at Dashanzi lukounan, you can't miss the big red numbers!