December 21, 2010
China is really up and coming on the art scene and it is definitely worth a day of your time to check out the art districts in Shanghai and Beijing. Unfortunately I was too sick in Shanghai, but I got to devote an entire day to the 798 Art Zone in Beijing. The area is comprised of decommissioned military factories giving the area a unique vibe. The galleries and stores and restaurants that have popped up around them are comparable to the art scene in the Village in New York, Silver Lake in Los Angeles, or the Left Bank in Paris. I took a cab out there (and actually had no trouble finding one to agree to take me back on the meter) and was dropped off by the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA). This is right in the center of the area and from there you can get your bearings. The UCCA has interesting temporary exhibits and is worth a walk through. The gallery is quirky and well laid out. I particularly liked the hand written placards for the photo show going on while I was there. The store inside the building has cutting edge designs and fashions from all around the world.
Nearby is the bookstore Timezone 8 which is split into two rooms: one for Chinese art and one for Western art. The store is amazing and I could have spent all day pursuing their selection. This is also a good place to pick up a map of the area with information about all the galleries and exhibits.
There is the Pace Gallery, which is worth a visit and is interesting to compare to the famous New York branch. I would also suggest visiting the 798 Photo Gallery, which was the first gallery dedicated solely to photography in China.
Around the area are many little shops selling quirky objects and interesting fashions. There are also many restaurants both Chinese and Western to grab a bite to eat. I would suggest just spending the day wandering in and out of the shops and galleries and enjoying the area itself, which is full of interesting outdoor sculptures and graffiti art.