While I was in Beijing this summer, my good friend Jingbo and I met up to spend a day together doing something fun, as was our tradition. She suggested two options and both sounded great, so the temporary plan was to do 798 Art Zone for half a day and then onto Blue Bay. Well, we were still at 798 when night fell. Talking about severe underestimation of how interesting the place was, especially given the fact that it was Monday and many galleries were not even open.
The Art Zone is a re-purposed abandoned factory complex in northeast Beijing. It was built in the 1950s involving both the Soviet Union and East Germany. For those who are interested in history, the Wiki page has many details on its construction, operation, and artistic rebirth.
We strolled on the streets and alleys in the zone and checked out galleries, studios, bookstores, cultural centers, museums, shops, cafes, sculptures, graffiti, and time just flew by. The combination of old industrial buildings and contemporary art forms, of childhood-era antiques and modern-day high-tech, made the whole experience a bit surreal, like time travel.
Some walls still have slogans like ‘Long Live Mao’ from cultural revolution. Strange sculptures at street corners remind people of those days.
King Kong graffiti and artwork in a shop. Similar red brick buildings and walls were everywhere.
I believe those display tables with rotating wheels and foot pedals were once sewing machines.
There were also plenty of weird stuff popping up here and there for us to marvel, to discuss, and to take loads of pictures.
By the time we left, we were reasonably certain that our footsteps covered all the streets in the zone and we saw all there was to see, except those galleries that were closed on Mondays. We also had a simple but good lunch and bought a few cute things. It was such a fun day and I wouldn’t mind going back for another visit.
If you are in Beijing and have already done all the “tourist highlights”, check out this odd but chic place. 🙂 Oh, did I mention that it is free?