Beijing’s artist communities

As I’m getting prepared to do some exploring. I leave you with this short article from thebeijinger:

Rumors have been circulating for some time that Caochangdi, the area past Dashanzi that’s home to a number of high-profile galleries, may be razed for redevelopment, but it’s far from the only “art zone” under threat by voracious real estate agents. Red Box Review recently published an overview of the areas under pressure.

While some areas like Songzhuang are currently being actively developed as creative communities, in many other places artists are facing harassment and forced evictions. The Red Box Review article notes:

“A new cycle of evictions began again in December, when artists in Beijing’s 008 Art Zone and Zhengyang Creative Art Zone were given one month to vacate their studios before demolition. Artists organized performances and protests, but in January the whole district was bulldozed as planned. At least 13 other art zones in Chaoyang are currently under threat, which would displace at least 1000 artists.”

Like ordinary residents in cities all over China, artists are often powerless in the face of developers’ demands, irrespective of rental contracts. Even 798 was only saved from demolition by intense lobbying from both inside and outside China, though rapidly rising rents and rank commercialism have managed to effectively strangle the area’s once-thriving creative community, even if the old factory buildings have survived.

It’s interesting to think about the push and pull of city and community development. Whether it’s a growing artist community or a formal commercial development, different characteristics are brought to the city. When I think about Boston’s FortPoint district that’s now become an established artistic and creative community, it was the artists that helped revitalize the neighborhood of old warehouses and bring life to a once deserted part of town. I spent the afternoon exploring the Beijing 798 Art Distrcit and there were a lot of empty buildings, but also a wonderful collection of contemporary work. I’m curious if the commercial and artistry can’t find a balance…

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