beijing/798 art scene (dedicated to amelia monroe)
my appetite for art was never going to be satisfied in tianjin what with tianjin apparent low level of fine art. a visit to beijing was due. first, leaving from xizhan (west station) in tianjin... … and the ‘countryside’ between the cities. the distance between both cities is about 133km or 70 miles as the crow flies. getting there is cheap, fast and easy… by bullet train. About US$12, and 40 minutes. american rail has nothing on these guys. my first trip by bullet train actually took place in japan in 1999 when i went to japan (tokyo, kyoto, kobe, yokohama) as part of a delegation led by jamaica’s then prime minister pj patterson. it was great. it made me wonder why a country like the usa, which owes so much of its progress to the railway, had fallen so far behind in regards to europe and the far east. on a recent trip to chingdao, i saw that my top land speed reached 301km or 187 miles per hour, but somehow i suspect i did go faster than that on japan’s bullet train. but before we go to the 798 district, let’s take a quick look at beijing silk street should definitely be on your list if you ever go to beijing. it practices capitalism in its pure form.
so its on to the famous 798/dashanzi art district. it was the site of government-owned factories and 798 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/798_Art_Zone) takes its name from factory 798. the factory was built in the 1950s as a joint cooperation of the then east germans, soviets and chinese
it was converted somewhere about 2002 to be a place for art studios, galleries, graphic design studios. tis a little like wynwood, miami, but greater in all aspects. its not limited to 1 night a month as activities are always there, particularly on weekends. there are also many fine cafes, restaurants and bars providing a variety of international foods, w/o the ‘oppressive’ server hovering over your shoulder so that you rush your meal. also remember, servers in china are paid… so tipping here is an insult there are some odd resemblances to similar industrial districts turned art locales as in america… where rundown areas began being infused by art and eventually being gentrified. we have seen it in soho, chelsea, williamsburg, miami, and fat village in ft lauderdale. some have criticized the direction the dashanzi district is taking, claiming that art is becoming overpowered by the glitz and glamour of wealthier people who seep into the artist environment… and inevitably ruin it. yes, something very familiar to artists in many parts of america. creepy, huh? lol. well, these pieces belong to zhu bingren, a well known artist who works in copper and bronze.
so after 798, its back to beijing, by night. and for breakfast, its the astor hotel… grand opulence indeed, with a price to match. this is like a diplomatic row which is not very far from where we hotel in beijing. the jamaican embassy is also housed right here. and below is the wangfujing shopping district, the busiest area in beijing. the majority of the area is for foot traffic only (pedestrianised) and is home to a great variety of shops including bookstores, restaurants, tea shops, departments stores. if you want fried scorpions, well, you can have it. some refer to it as the shopping paradise of china… but i kinda doubt it. but we didnt walk the entire place… but looking at hong kong, at least… i kinda doubt it. but still its a nice place to go, find gifts and get fairly reasonable prices. so next, we will look at my second visit to beijing, and to surge art. (this blog is dedicated to amelia monroe)