Beijing 798: A Visual Diary

798 has changed so much since my last visit – with souvenir shops, cafes, design firms and fashion boutiques popping up here and there, commercial activities has definitely change the face of China’s most important art zone. I stayed in Beijing briefly this summer, spent two days wandering around the area and here’s a few things to share.

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The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) is a non-profit art center located at the heart of the 798 Art District, it was founded by collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens. Since it’s establishment in 2007, the centre has organized numerous critically-acclaimed exhibition by Chinese contemporary artists. The exhibition is currently showing a retrospective for Chinese painter Wang Xingwei.

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UCCA also publish a series of insightful art books about contemporary Chinese art. There are a few really interesting introductory volumes – Breaking Forecast (中坚) - 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation Artists. and China Talks (对话中国) – Interview with 32 Contemporary Artists by Jerome Sans. The UCCA Store also carries a selection of art, architecture, design and fashion magazines. And don’t forget to check out the UCCA Design Store next door.

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Tang Contemporary Art often presents installation projects by Chinese artists. They were showing Wu Daxin’s exhibition De Composure – an impressive installation piece of seven buildings representing the central axis dividing the city of Beijing. Many reference of religions can be seen in the pieces, including a blurred portrait of something that resembles a buddha, and a Noah’s Ark-like installation titled “White Vessel“. Read more about the exhibition here.

There are some other galleries and art spaces that you absolutely cannot miss: Long March SpaceBoers-Li Gallery, Pace GalleryBeijing Commune, and Space Station Art. Seriously, don’t miss out.

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I arrive just in time to see the Chanel’s touring exhibition The Little Black Jacket in Beijing. You can experience the exhibition on their official website. There’re a lot of debates on whether luxury brands has killed the artistic scene in 798. But having worked in a gallery myself, I consider the collaboration with luxury brands a creative way of revenue generation which would eventually be re-invested into nurturing the development of art and artists, if managed properly. My friend and fellow blogger Daniel Kong did an interesting piece about that.

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It was a nice surprise to literally “bump” into friend and artist Lai Sio Kit‘s solo exhibition at Art For All Society, an art organization devoted to promote art works by artists from Macau. 

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On my quest for art I also stopped by the famous Fei Space – a concept store dedicated to introducing international designer fashion, home decor and furnitures to the China market. The store even has its little curated furniture display room which resembles the interior of a typical 1960s Chinese home. Since September 2011, Fei Space became the first retail store in Mainland China to carry Topshop and Topman products. Check out their website for more.

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And I wasn’t walking around in high heels.

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