Beijing is certainly ripe with opportunities to witness the artistry and craftsmanship of China’s great dynasties, but if you are looking for the excitement of China’s modern art movement, we have a couple of recommendations off the beaten path.
798 Art Zone (or Dashanzi Art District) is a sprawling 230,000 sq. meter complex filled with galleries, art exhibition spaces, artists’ studios, design firms and retail (fashion, restaurants, etc.). A decommissioned military factory from the 1950s, 798 Art Zone features a Bauhaus-influenced design born from a collaboration between China and East Germany. Who would have known that the “form follows function” aesthetic would provide the perfect backdrop to showcase China’s contemporary art scene. The outposts of established international galleries like TOKYO GALLERY (BTAP), PACE and GALLERIA CONTINUA attract the cognoscenti, but if you are looking for some attainable cool, the retail store of the ULLENS CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART (UCCA) is worth a visit.
Another nearby artistic hotbed is Caochangdi – a ten minute cab ride from 798. Translated as “grasslands” in Mandarin, Caochangdi is a true artists community, home to a diverse group of residents, including migrant workers, farmers, students and artists, most notably, Ai Weiwei. Unlike the more uptown, commercialized feel of 798, Caochangdi displays more of a raw emotion and connection to humanity that certainly inspires creativity amongst its residents. THREE SHADOWS PHOTOGRAPHY ART CENTRE and GALERIE URS MEILE are among Caochangdi’s notable attractions.
Whether you are looking for inspiration, a space for quiet contemplation or just to get out and see something new, there is something here for you.