Progressive art enclave is an unexpected paradise
On its own, 789 Art District is a rally, not against the government, but for the progression of artistic brilliance as conveyed through its many art forms. The hangar screams with red Communist slogans that were left there for amusement, or perhaps a deeper pondering. The 19650s military location has emerged into a glorious melting pot of visual art where various exhibits embrace the world’s most creative quirks.
Faurschou Foundation houses large installations in its gallery, imbibing its walls with immersive photographs, 3D sculptures and paintings from international artists. Whitebox Art Centre, whose live performances lean towards the exploration of human perception and feelings, highlights Wang Jiazeng’s Wrinkles of an Object. A catalogue of avant-garde sculptures and breath-taking photographs, PACE Gallery now features works from international artists Kohei Nawa, Tony Smith, and Robert Mangold. Until the end of August, curator Yu Fei holds Tian Mu: The Party of the Redundant at the Hive Centre for Contemporary Art.
There is art inside, and there is art outside. Sui Jianguo’s caged dinosaurs are scattered around the 798 live house, along with the plethora of graffiti-clad walls and stone busts. While eyes are fed with a profusion of art expressions, cravings are quelled with the district’s many restaurants. Retaining the old Bauhaus charm is the Old Factory, an industrial-themed dining space that charms with a quintessential weathered look and an Italian menu. Ace Cafe is the first of its brand in China, occupying the old train station perched in the middle of the brick-road, solving thirsty spirits with its own league of cocktails and liquor.
None of its former military occupants may have expected it, but 798 Art District’s decommissioned buildings have become a cocoon for the creative butterflies, graciously morphing into a satisfying experience for Beijing’s artistic crowd. ◼
© This article was first published in Aug-Sept 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.