– OCTOBER 22, 2015
The 798 Art District, or Dashanzi Art District, is a 50-year-old decommissioned military factory buildings with unique architectural style. Located in Beijing, it houses a thriving artistic community. The area is often called Factory 798 although technically, Factory #798 is only one of several structures inside a complex formerly known as 718 Joint Factory.
The Dashanzi factory complex was vacated at around the time when most of Beijing’s contemporary artist community was looking for a new home. Avant-garde art being frowned upon by the government, the community had traditionally existed on the fringes of the city. From 1984 to 1995, they worked in run-down houses near the Old Summer Palace in northwestern Beijing, until their eviction. Many then moved to the eastern Tongxian County (now Tongzhou District), more than an hour’s drive from the city center.
Then in 1995, Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, looking for cheap, ample workshop space away from downtown, set up in the now defunct Factory 706. The temporary move became permanent and in 2000 the Dean of the Department of Sculpture located his own studio in the area. The cluttered sculpture workshops have always remained open for visitors to peek at the dozens of workers milling about.
In 2001, a Texan bookstore owner moved his store into a former factory canteen as he was the first foreigner to move in. Chinese employees of the bookstore then used word-of-mouth to attract more artists and designers to the area. They started trickling in as they were attracted to the vast cathedral-like spaces. Despite the lack of any conscious aesthetic in the Bauhaus-inspired style, which grounded architectural beauty in practical, industrial function, the swooping arcs and soaring chimneys had an uplifting effect on modern eyes, a sort of post-industrial chic. At the artists’ requests, workers renovating the spaces preserved the prominent Maoist slogans on the arches, adding a touch of ironic “Mao kitsch” to the place.
Next up are the Beijing Olympic Venues.
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.