Wednesday, March 7, 2012

798 Art District - The Modern Side of Beijing

I enjoyed a quick trip to Beijing with my office mates last week-end and after going to all the must-see-historical-cultural sites -- you know, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, The Great Wall, The Summer Palace ... I was just about up to my eyeballs in tradition and culture.
I wanted a taste of the new and modern Beijing!
So my friend and I broke off from the rest of the pack, hired a car and took off for 798 Art District -- the center for modern art in this part of the world!

798 Art District is located in the Dashanzi area, north of the center of Beijing. It's actually on the way to the airport so it's convenient if you have a few hours to spare before flying out.
The place is quite big -- it's made up of factory buildings originally used for manufacturing but in the early 2000's, the factories were abandoned and the artists started to move in.
Given the industrial look and architectural style of the buildings, it's a perfect setting for the avant garde, the contemporary and the cool!

Today, the factories "manufacture" art.
Artists -- painters, sculptors, installation artists, photographers, graphic designers, fashion designers, artisans, printers, -- call 798 Art Space as home.
There are galleries galore, small shops selling both art and kitsch, cool coffee shops and bars -- a very now place to be!
I call it the Sino Soho!

Paintings like these line factory walls. There is art everywhere you look!

Some of the art depict painful situations. It is meant to enlighten, provoke and inspire.

This interesting piece is actually a trash bin. How cool and smart is that!

Gorgeous graffiti make walls come alive. How to dismantle this and take it home?

Playful sculptures line the streets! But wait, there's something not-so-playful at the base of this mirthful mandarin!

How about a gigantic Venus de Milo done in red lego-like bricks?

I almost missed this row of mute white figures, mouths agape, looking heavenward ... a cry or a call for what?

A sign at the base of this piece reads "No climb" -- it must be so tempting to be the fifth grinning figure and climb to the top!

The streets are lined with young locals and foreigners, like me -- all amazed at the art that surrounds all of us!

A silent figure in an old and rickety wooden canoe -- where is he sailing off to?

A leap of faith! A leap of freedom! It's exhilarating, just looking at this figure in a shop window.

Further down at the end of 798 Art District is a section called D-Park, where there is a steam locomotive and imposing iron towers. The feel is industrial chic -- there is a fashion shoot that seems to be going on.

Our original plan was to spend just an hour at 798 Art Zone. An hour stretched to two then to more than three hours and yet we saw just a fraction of the place.
So many more galleries to go into, exhibits to visit, art to gaze and marvel at ... but never mind, I promised myself that the next time I find myself in Beijing I would definitely come back to this place.
For me, this is the real, dynamic China today!

Thanks to my friend Lyli for the first three photos and the last photo on this post!

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