China

798 Art Zone

 

 

 

Northeast of central Beijing in the Dashanzi area lies what is now called the 798 Art Zone, but was once the site of state-owned factories that manufactured electronics.   This included Factory 798, which produced top-secret components for the Chinese military.  The Factory was built during the late 1950s and early 1960s in the Bauhaus style by the East German government with money earmarked for the USSR as reparations for World War II.  It was intended to be an example of collaboration between socialist entities, a working model of Mao’s vision for China of an advanced socialist state based on heavy industry and communist ideology.

 

In the 1990s the Chinese government started to decrease its subsidies for state-operated factories, and many of the buildings became unoccupied.  Attracted to the natural light in the space, members of the Central Academy of Fine Arts chose the area for their sculpture department.  Independent artists soon followed, enticed by the low-cost space, converting the buildings into studios and lofts.  About half of the 600,000 square meters is now rented, occupied by 50 galleries as well as publishing houses, restaurants, bars, bookshops, music and movie-producing companies, artist studios and design companies.

 

The 798 Art Zone, which is now one of the largest arts districts in China, has made sure to keep the past along with the present.  On one side are redbrick walls containing slogans from different ages, including Maoist propaganda.  On the other side are industrial plants and pipelines.  The galleries have regular exhibitions of works by Chinese and foreign contemporary artists.

 

 





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