Discover Beijing’s buzzing art scene

May 29,2015

Works by China’s boundary-breaking painters, sculptors and photographers are increasingly causing a stir on the international art scene. Check out the city’s art districts for yourself and rather than shopping for souvenirs, return to your luxury hotel room with a striking piece of modern art.

Forbidden City

A city steeped in history, Beijing never fails to intrigue and inspire visitors. Having explored the Forbidden City and parks of the sprawling Summer Palace, it’s time to embrace the future by getting to grips with China’s exciting modern art scene. The Grand Millennium Beijing offers a perfect base from which to visit a number of arty attractions as you check out the city’s contemporary, creative talent.

Grand Millennium Beijing

Get a lesson in history at Red Gate Gallery

To get under the skin of Beijing’s buzzing art scene, set off from your hotel accommodation and uncover the origins of a movement that continues to rapidly gain momentum with a visit to the city’s first private gallery. Founded in the 1980s, the space continues to host a regularly changing schedule of modern art exhibitions while keeping one foot firmly in the past, thanks to its unique location in a 600-year-old Ming dynasty watchtower in Dongbianmen.

Industrial renewal in Dashanzi

Situated to the north-east of central Beijing, art critics are quick to draw comparisons between the creative communities of the 798 Art District and New York’s Greenwich Village – and it’s easy to see why. Once the site of a state-owned factory, the East German-built Bauhaus-style brick buildings are home to galleries, studios and design companies, as well as restaurants and bars catering to hungry art enthusiasts. Head to the district on a Thursday and join an art walking tour organised by UCCA (Ullens Center for Contemporary Art). Home to one of the largest collections of contemporary Chinese art in the world, the iconic building also runs a regular schedule of films screenings, talks and workshops.

Caochangdi’s experimental artists

With many of the exhibition spaces designed by Ai Weiwei – a renowned artist, architect and activist – the galleries housed in this attractive village are just as eye-catching as the pieces they contain. Spend an afternoon wandering the winding laneways and you’ll come face-to-face with bold installations and experimental art forms at Platform China – a multifunctional space devoted to up-and-coming creative talent – and works by avant-garde artists, such as Zhang Fazhi and Qin Qi, at BANG (Beijing Art Now Gallery).

Named by Forbes as one of the top galleries in the city to buy Chinese art, Pékin Fine Arts hosts a wide range of exhibitions. One of its most recent featured Aniwar Mamet’s reinterpretations of Uyghur wool felt tapestries.

When you know where to look, it’s easy to turn your last-minute hotel stay into an exercise in art appreciation – you might even return home with the beginnings of your very own gallery.


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