December 19, 2007

798 BETWEEN 11 AND 4

Art is a tricky subject. All of us have different views that I’m certain we will defend to the end. 798 is not about the art you enjoy (though you might just find that one great piece) or those “cocktail party whisper” pieces that you just have to see; it’s a place where the young artists of northern china can display their work, discuss their thoughts, and relax in the company of other artists. Note that while this may be commonplace in Europe or the United States, we are talking about China and the city from which “beats the heart of the Chinese people.” Up until the mid eighties, the Chinese were very much still in the Cultural Revolution. The society of artists and art aficionados really only started to develop in the nineties.

For visitors to 798, the “rough around the edges” feeling is prevalent, despite the well furnished/funded galleries, coffee houses, and forced graffiti. This was an old factory of some kind, which explains the wide buildings, perfectly angled streets, pipes, stacks, and valves that give this area its charm. There are rusted generators painted in bright colors that compliment the graffiti strewn across long, red brick walls. Randomly themed sculptures can be found at every corner and the galleries, are first rate—designed to the standards of New York and Milan. The development of this area is still in progress—there are no good restaurants, and a lot of space between galleries. The signs and maps are improving, but as a whole I suggest just mowing up and down the area, like you would a grocery store, to get the best experience. Smaller side streets often have small workshops. The people are quite friendly, so do not be shy when poking your nose into little courtyards or shacks. It can be cold in the winter, so I suggest that people traveling during this period dress warmly (Excessively would be best) and the artists do not usually get up till around 1030am, so plan for a mid day visit- which gets you out before the rush hour traffic at 5pm.

798 is a place any art lover NEEDS to visit. Fortunately it will only improve as time passes, so regular visits are recommended. If you absolutely need to buy a piece, I suggest you do your research first. There are a lot of overpriced artists and imitators in this area. Look first then go home and get on the internet. All prices are heavily negotiable.

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