Photos by Shu Hung and Joe Magliaro
The forces of a global art market have created a gold rush of art speculators in China. With the Mainland’s first gallery opening only 15 years ago and international interest in the voices of young China, the gallery scene in Beijing can sometimes feel like its up for sale to the highest bidder.
Stacey Duff, art critic and editor for Time Out Beijing, introduces us to the spaces and people who are working to build a lasting infrastructure for the rapidly expanding scene.
Stacey Duff Bio
Brief bio, occupation: Stacey Duff is the art editor for Time Out Beijing. His articles have also appeared in Art Review UK, Artnet and Artzine China. Stacey is also the China correspondent for Saatchi Online. Outside of art, he is focusing on providing ways for young Chinese poets to collaborate with their Western counterparts.
Length of time in Beijing: 4 years
Navigating the Beijing Art Scene
The Beijing art scene is really spread out, with several art centers rather than just one.
The highest concentration of galleries is in the Dashanzi 798 Art District, 2 or 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang, full of converted Bauhaus-style warehouse and factory spaces.
Rising rents have pushed some artists to Caochangdi Village, by the Fifth Ring Road in the city’s northeast, Chaoyang, Beijing’s new gallery hot spot. Caochangdi, The Brewery International Art Garden, Beihuqu Lu, Anwai Beiyuan near the Olympic Park, and the Central Academy of Fine Arts, 8 Huajiadi Nanlu, Chaoyang, are located within a short cab drive of Dashanzi.
The city also has galleries scattered throughout the central downtown area, inside the Second Ring Road and just south of the Central Business District.
Best Of Contemporary Art
Overall Contemporary Art Institution:
Ullens Centre of Contemporary Art
Dashanzi 798 Art District
Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art has reenergized the Dashanzi Art District, boasting several art events each week: openings, films, forums, and large-scale exhibitions. Founded by Belgian philanthropists and collectors, Guy and Miriam Ullens, UCCA is also the first not-for-profit art space in Beijing and has received glowing reviews abroad for bringing international exhibition standards to the city.
For Chinese Pulse:
Long March Space
Dashanzi 798 Art District
Long March Space is a good first stop for a representative overview of what is happening in Chinese contemporary art (nationwide, not just in Beijing). Long March organizes exhibitions, events, forums, and seminars around the country. Their goal: bring international art to the masses, but with a firm grounding in Chinese art history and practice.
For Site-Specific Projects:
Dashanzi 798 Arts District
Based in San Gimignano, Italy, Galleria Continua opened here in May 2005, becoming the first gallery to show major international artists in Beijing. The space includes a high-ceilinged exhibition hall ideal for site-specific installations.
For Emerging Artists:
319-1 East End Art Zone A, Caochangdi Village.
Under gallerist Natalie Sun, Platform China is one of the city’s most dynamic art spaces. Platform includes a courtyard for openings, which often feature musical performances and barbecue under an open sky. Despite the international-name exhibits, it’s the best place in town to scout young and emerging Chinese artists.
For Coolest Openings:
A8 Caochangdi Village.
Boers-Li Gallery is our favorite; Chinese curator Pi Li and ex-Berliner gallerist Waling Boers put on dazzling shows. There’s also a showroom and one large exhibition hall devoted to large-scale projects.
46-C Caochangdi Village
261 Caochangdi Village
Beihuqu Road, Anwaibeiyuan Street, Chaoyang
Korean artists and galleries have made a huge impact on the city recently with PKM Gallery, Do Art and Arario Beijing in the Brewery International Art Garden. All three spaces showcase Korean artists but throw Chinese and international artists into the mix as well.
Art + Space
Beijing’s First Gallery:
Red Gate Gallery Levels 1 & 4
Dongbianmen Watchtower, Chongwenmen
Australian Brian Wallace opened the city’s (and Mainland China’s) first gallery in 1991. Red Gate Gallery still operates in what has to be the city’s rarest downtown art space, the Dongmianmen Watchtower, a historical landmark just a short walk from the Ancient Observatory.
Contemporary Art in a Classical Setting:
One Moon Gallery
South side of Ditan Park Andingmenwai, Dongcheng. Specializes in Chinese abstract expressionists in a 16th-century Ming Dynasty temple. It’s a great downtown art stop and complements a visit to the Llama Temple nearby.
Best Designed Art Space:
Galerie Urs Meile
104 Caochangdi Village
Galerie Urs Meile not only sports some of the highest quality exhibitions in the city but also a beautiful and flexible group of showrooms and artist residences, all designed by Chinese artist-architect, Ai Weiwei.
Two top-notch photo galleries, both located in 798 Dashanzi Art District: 798 Photo Gallery and Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery.
Three Shadows Photography Art Centre
155 Caochangdi Village
Rong Rong and Inri, two influential photographers who have had a hand in the development of the Beijing art community since its East Village days, opened China’s first institution devoted to the conservation and exhibition of photography in 2007. Worth visiting not only for the quality exhibitions, but also for the 4,600-square-meter Ai Weiwei-designed complex, typical of the gray-brick style that Ai has made de rigueur for Beijing’s ever-expanding roster of gallery and studio spaces.
Best Downtown Art Museums
National Art Museum of China
1 Wusi Dajie just north of the Wangfujing, Dongcheng
Balances contemporary art exhibits with works from traditional Chinese artists. The Museum also receives major overviews from major museums abroad like the Prada and the Guggenheim.
16 Fuxingmenwai Dajie, Xicheng
The city’s best designed museum, showing a range of exhibits, from shows focusing on Beijing history to contemporary art from abroad.
Today Art Museum
32 Baiziwanlu in the Central Business District, Chaoyang
The city’s only museum devoted to living contemporary Chinese artists.
The art industry has attracted a growing number of cafes and restaurants.
798 Dashanzi Art District
Timezone 8 Bookstore and Restaurant across from the Ullens Center. Café Cave and AT Café tend towards international fare. Right across from Italian gallerists Marella.
Big Copper Coin
327 Caochangdi Village
Specializing in Chinese fusion, across from Pekin Fine Arts.
Late at night, catching a cab in Caochangdi is a nightmare. Ask a local gallerist to call up a cab for you. Even then, make sure you settle on a price before getting in—avoid the unlicensed “black cabs” that don’t work off a meter. A ride back into the city should cost no more than 40-50 RMB.
Beijing art events often happen on the cuff, even though many international galleries are scheduling their exhibitions a year in advance. For the latest, the city has several ex-pat magazines: Time Out Beijing, That’s Beijing, and City Weekend. For Chinese art-related news in English, viewers should point their browser to http://www.artzinechina.com or http://www.artforum.com.cn.