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From factories to art galleries: Beijing’s 798 Art District
이하정   |   2018. 01. 26 15:19   |  
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(Korean)

 

 

 

An artwork showing sculptures of laborers reflect the proletarian backgrounds in China’s communist period of the 1950s.(justcharlie)

 

 


 

Also known as 大山子Dàshānzi, 798 Art District in Beijing is a vast area of disused factories that once was officially named Joint Factory 718. Beijing’s SoHo, 798 Art District is Beijing’s main concentration of contemporary art galleries. The gallery interiors and lanes in the district are adorned with retouched red Maoist slogans and statues of communist laborers. Through these decorations and settings, the district’s proletarian backgrounds in China’s communist period of the 1950s can be felt. 


Established in 2002, artists and cultural organizations began to remake the spaces, gradually developing the art zone into contemporary galleries, various artists’ studios, design companies, bars, and so on. The Beijing government initially announced that art districts would be replaced with industrial complex. However, realizing the leverage of cultural arts industry, the government’s initial was modified to develop Beijing’s art districts, and this led to the development of the art district.  


 

To look further into the birth of the Dashanzi factory complex, it has its backgrounds on the “Social Unification Plan,” which was a military-industrial cooperation between the Soviet Union and People Republic of China. Under the agreement between the two nations, 156 “joint factory” projects were to put into actions by 1951. However, what the People’s Liberation Army lacked and needed at the time was modern electronic components. This was the beginning of a large project between China and East Germany, which exported much of the Soviet Union’s electronics. The project was at the time informally known as Project #157. Afterwards, the official name came to be known as Joint Factory 718, one of the structures being today’s 798 Art District.


Around the time when Beijing’s contemporary artist comunity was looking for a new home to express their artistic capabilities, the Dashanzi factory complex was being vacated. The contemporary artist community embraced Avant-garde art, but without much welcome from the government. Therefore, the community had to build its basis on the fringes of the capital city. However, now the artists have gathered to create a district full of art that has become entertainment for many tourists that visit Beijing. Not only does 798 Art District provide enterntainment for many visitors, it is also the artistic hub of contemporary artists and art events such as the Beijing Design Week. Although some criticize that the district has rapidly been commercialized, rendering poor artists to leave the district, however, 798 Art District certainly contains the cutting edge art movement that has never been seen before in Beijing. 


With a variety of artworks ready on displays and at art galleries, the art zone not only provides people with entertainment to the eyes but also exposes internal meanings which reflect the past events and political ideologies. I believe the idea of converting disused factories into an art district was a brilliant one, one that can easily attract both internal and external attention. This, rather eye-opening, fresh plan of the Chinese government is worthy of the praises it continually receives and an idea like this is definitely worth a try in Korea as well.

 

 

 

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