798 is an area of old warehouses in Beijing which have been converted to various art studios. This post is more of inspiration rather than exhibition review as there are some stuff that i saw that has led me along with my coursework. We visited this place along with Today Art Museum as part of research for a small project that we did at the end of the trip. For our project, we act as consultants on relocation, and the mother of the imaginary family was a fan of contemporary Chinese art and as consultants, we were to recommend her art and artists worth adding to her collection. Thus, we did not go see Contemporary art such traditional chinese paintings that the Chinese are famous for, and instead, went to see the art form more unique to the Chinese.
798 consists of 50s style military warehouses converted into individual art studios, housing contemporary and avant garde Chinese artists. 798 is inspired by Bauhaus style of East Germany and is often compared to Soho, Greenwich Village and the Meat Packing District in New York City. I really like this place as it was art mixed with history, and its rawness and simplicity helped bring out the works of contemporary artists. They made effort to preserve it, restoring it to its former glory instead of turning this place into a state of the art museum etc. I really liked the exhibition space and its vintage effect, where there are a lot of communist writings and the ideas of Mao painted in a very significant red on the wall. I think the rich history is part of the reason why this place is filled with foreigners, up to 60% of the visitors are foreigners.
large, spacious exhibition hall
The main point of this post is how 798 inspired me, and what particularly inspired me is this statue which i felt was like the unofficial mascot of 798. This life-sized figure is available in many art galleries and many of them are randomly placed around the whole vicinity of 798. These figures may come in various colours and prints but are mostly red. They are called the “Ghosts of 798” and the whole collection is called “Stress- the ghosts of 798”, which is what i am feeling now trying to complete my SIA.
I felt that they are somewhat related to my coursework as they depict an abstract man screaming. Based on my contextual knowledge of the cultural revolution, communism etc, I think this sculpture is to encourage expression and to show the artist’s frustration at not being able to express his thoughts and feelings. Back in the 60s,
Disclaimer: The photo are not particularly clear as photography is not allowed ._.
This is the backview of the red and most common type. This gigurins have a rough texture though they are glossy. Also, as can be seen, they do not even have distinctive arms or legs.
Seeing this caption makes me wonder whether this set of figurines is part of a series of emotions, and is a themed exhibition, with the current emotion being stress. However, after research I realise this is not true. Moreover, i realised that this set of figurines are in fact, made by an Italian artist, Nicola Rivelli. I had always assumed that it was made by a Chinese artist to show their history, to show resistance to their previous creative stiflity. I think that 798 should focus more on works of local contemporary artists instead of international artists who like to make art related to the cultural revolution.
Besides this, my other inspiration is rather general, just to show the change in Chinese rt, to show how the Chinese :speak out: in their own ways through art, something that used to rare in China.
I think one form of contemporary art would be graffiti. Also, there was a public sculpture( 2nd photo) which is a BMW car made entirely in stone. I think this is quite an interesting idea and the stone and dirt colour also shows one of China’s problems of pollution.
Outdoor sculptures found around 798. The first and 3rd sculpture are done in neutral tones and are beautiful in a grotesque manner. The 2nd and 4th involves bright glossy prints, helping to ade the culptures more ‘loud” and eye catching.
From this visit, I have gained inspiration not just in literal sense, but metaphorically too as I take note of how the Chinese break out of their boundaries to create a new generation of Chinese art.