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Posted by Sebastian on Feb 07, 2011
798 Art Zone is a former factory complex in Beijing now occupied by art galleries, studios, bookstores, cafés and design shops.
The complex is enormous and often referred to as Beijing's Meatpacking District, but 798 is a gated area and much more condensed and busy like an art fair.
798 has supposedly turned too mainstream for some local artists and galleries who have instead moved to Caochangdi some 5 kilometers further out of the city, but even on a freezing cold Saturday in mid-January where every second place was closed (due to holidays?), there were still some good things to see and experience.
From a personal perspective, the most inspiring exhibition was Twelve Chinese Artists at Iberia Center for Contemporary Art and in particular the conceptual works Go Home Project and True Fighter - two completely different works about identity and role playing.
The first one, Go Home Project, is an anthropological experiment, in which the artist Pak Sheung Chuen asked museum-goers to take him to their homes. The project plays with the duality between viewer and creator and a wall of photographs shows the artist socializing with the strangers at their homes, in restaurants and on the streets as if they were best friends.
The second one, True Fighter, is an installation by Feng Mengbo inspired classic Kung Fu arcade-games. In Feng's version of the game, all characters are replaced by Feng and his friends. Feng himself is an obsessive online gamer and his works have been shown at PS1 in New York and at Ars Electronica in Linz.
Another gallery worth recommending is UCCA: Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, which also features performances, talks, music and workshops. There are simply lots of things to see (but do a bit of research if you plan to go) and if you are into more traditional Chinese crafts, such as sweatshop-produced paper cuts, you'll find a place for that too.