798 Art District
A student poses for a photo near a sculpture by Shen Hongbiao at Peking University. The sculpture was relocated last year.
this sculpture is no doubt the most photographed (because roughly at the “center” of the Zone itself in part)
I find it curious how people take a consistently critical view of this place. And by “people,” I mean the artists and art-related folks I hang out with when in Beijing. THe habit, and its just that, habit, is to lament the influx of commercial ventures, from small shops to big, installation like design operations, the economically central but aesthetically marginal operations that, to hear tell, are invading what once was pure “art zone.” True, of course, that they may know something I don’t. More likely, they see writing on the wall, writing that still strikes me as artistically relevant graffiti, but to them smacks of advert, plain and simple. STILL, and at least for the moment, I find that 798 offers a terrific place to go and see, yes, art. Part of the pleasure is simply logistical. Once upon a time (5 years ago), when I first started visiting Dashanzi, I worked hard to get Beijing taxis to even go there. This last trip, nary a hesitation when I mentioned it upon getting in the cab. More important, the invasion of commercial ventures has included, naturally, eateries, and while the preponderance of hamburgers and pizza suggests a (hopefully) misguided assessment of present and future clientele, at least there are numerous options to keep one going the whole day. But mostly, the 798 Zone is simply a great place to walk around. The art is inside and out, and incidental populations, great on weekends and more subdued at other times, makes for endless interesting contrast between (aesthetically) built environment and people who use/enjoy it.
SHEN HONG BIAO, Born in 1968, Mongolian Standing, Stainless Steel, Proof AP 5/5
Size : 360x335x210cm