Beijing’s contemporary art scene can seem overwhelming with galleries and foundations spread out in district 798, suburban Songzhuang and Caochangdi, so it is advisable to hire a good guide who can steer you to the top places and make personal introductions to dealers. Contact our advisory team for an art curator/guide.
Caochangdi has become the new cutting-edge art district. Among the top galleries in Caochangdi, which is definitely the more avant-garde art scene, are Chambers, F2 Gallery, Three Shadows Photography Center and the Taikang Art foundation.
The advantages of visiting 798 or Dashanzi is that there are more galleries and a better infrastructure (for instance, lots of restaurants, cafes and shops are interspersed with the galleries). The disadvantage: it feels a bit like Disneyland for artists (Dashanzi is now officially the third most popular tourist attraction after the Forbidden City).
Dashanzi Art District
Anyone with even the vaguest interest in contemporary art should set aside a half day for a trip out to this former factory complex, now given over to scores of studios. The main space, Factory 798, still has slogans from the Cultural Revolution era on its walls—characters that tell people to study Chairman Mao’s works diligently, learn from the Communist Party and study Marx. Instead of revering the old dictator, the young artists use him as a cartoon figure; he is featured regularly in modern-art paintings, but Chinese creative types know just how far they can go in lampooning the nation’s figurehead. The atmosphere at the compound is raw and energetic, not yet subject to the marketing makeover that will inevitably come. As well as scores of small art galleries, there are also some delightful little coffee shops, so the walkabout can be undertaken with latte-and-muffin stops or even lunch. Many galleries are closed on Monday.
Galleries Not to Miss in Dashanzi
Indagare Insider Kai Yin-Lo on her favorite galleries:
“Years ago, Dashanzi, also known as 798, was a Russian-built electronic components factory. Today it’s home to thriving contemporary art scene including Xin Dong Cheng Gallery (86-10-6433-4579; www.chengxindong.com), which represents many established Chinese artists. Other galleries to see: Chinese Contemporary (86-10-8456-2421; www.chinesecontemporary.com), Tokyo Gallery (86-10-8457-3245; www.tokyo-gallery.com) and Contrasts Gallery (86-10-6432-1369; www.contrastsgallery.com“http://www.contrastsgallery.com), a branch of the Shanghai-based gallery owned by the flamboyant Pearl Lam.”
Attesting to the strength of the contemporary Asian market, with a fast-growing number of serious Chinese collectors, U.S. PaceWildenstein gallery (www.pacewildenstein.com) opened an outpost in August 2008, just in time for the summer Olympics. Located in Beijing’s cutting-edge Factory 798 District, the gallery, which represents Tara Donovan, James Turrell and Chinese artists Zhang Huan and Zhang Xiogang, is housed in a 22,000 square-foot space that used to be a factory.
Top Beijing Galleries
Tip from Xiaoming Zhang, the head of Sotheby’s newly formed Chinese Contemporary Art department:
“I like Long March Space (www.longmarchspace.com), the Chinese Art Archives & Warehouse, known as the CAAW (www.archivesandwarehouse.com), Galerie Urs Meile (www.galerieursmeile.com), which also has a branch in Lucerne and the Beijing Art Now Gallery (www.artnow.cn).”
To read the complete Q&A with Zhang about the contemporary Chinese art scene, click here.