Saturday, October 27, 2007

the reason we love beijing? #798

we had the chance today to either go to the forbidden city,
which happens to be right next door to the hotel
(literally. hotel, then biiiig wall surounding a bunch of old buildings.)
or trek out of the downtown area to a bunch of crumbling old warehouses that are supposedly becoming the new art scene of china.

so of course, we hired a car for the day (highly recommend this, as NO ONE here speaks even a smattering of english, or is interested in trying. it is kind of hysterical, they are almost like americans here, when they don't understand your language, they just speak cantonese LOUDER and FASTER at you. i swear i've seen americans do the same damn thing in paris.)

we drove a good 45 minutes outside the city (ok, not outside. through. it's like houston here, it just keeps going and going and going. there are so many huge buildings and cranes churning here, that even though the city is a huge grid, you get lost in a heartbeat. it's all modern, it's all striking, and it's all overwhelming.) and then turned into what appeared to be this crumbling bunch of old factory buildings. actually, acres of old buildings. and some big plants still working, steam belching into the air and the sidewalks.

did i mention the fog? it's settled in for good here.

which normally would be a problem, but oddly, here, has become a bit of a mood enhancer. you always feel like you're on a backlot, that the action is about to begin on some noir thriller, and you have a pivotal role to play.

so, anyway, cue the fog, the old buildings, the steam . . . and the international modeling competition.

that's right. got dropped off, heard the booming music, wandered right into a multi-culti modeling walk off. it was like all of mainland china, plus half of russia were milling around in leggings and heels, waiting to walk the catwalk for the judges. we hung around for about ten minutes before people started staring and then coming up to us. apparently a BIG deal that americans had come all the way to the 798 for the competition.

oh yeah, the 798. it's the name for the area, and the original building address in the center of it all.

so we started to walk, and our pulses started to take off. because it is not a burgeoining art scene. it is a MAJOR art scene. there is stunning art everywhere, on the streets, grafittid on the walls, and every other doorway is a stunning, completely finished out, glassed in minimalist gallery space. then crumbling space, then space being rebuilt, then glam gallery again. then street art. then gallery. then gallery. then pile of rubble.

we were almost running through the district by the end.

we eventually found the heart of the complex, a courtyard called possibility. literally. and it put modern re-use archictecture to shame. stunning use of space and glass, repetition of form, vast interiors being finished out. . . you've heard me say this before, but i wanted to MOVE IN. and you could stand there and watch the labor being done with bamboo winches and manual labor, the sheets of glass being installed, the iron window frames being winched up to the third floor by just two men . . . the speed is unreal.

we walked into the back glass building and found the overview and scale model of the finished place. the chinese do NOT fool around. the whole 798 is planned, scaled, building. and it's all just for ART.

which leads me to the next point. the calibre of artist? international. i'm going to have to dedicate three more posts to show the range . . . for instance, here's grr and avec, international stars:

am i sad i missed the forbidden city? you tell me.


Iheartfashion said...

Amazing! My Boston friend Ted has studio space somewhere in the 798, but I've never seen pictures-WOW!

editor said...

"wow!" is right.
i would never ... i feel like...
thank you for this virtual tour!
the 798 door - i want it, bad.
if you pass a newsstand, there is a magazine, rayli, that supposedly did a small (tiny) feature on me - never heard if it actually happened. was supposed to be the october issue. or november.

landis smithers said...

got it, on it, lookin for rayli!

editor said...

never thought i'd know anyone passing through china to look into it for me. i haven't heard from the freelancer who did the piece, and she's in the netherlands herself. so who knows. stuff happens.
more important than the case of the mystery magazine is you keep on keeping on with the traveling and picture-taking and general fabulousness because i need my vicarious fix!

TravelGretta said...

You should read "China Wakes" for a startling contrast to your experience there. How fab to see they are embracing art again!
p.s. did you know the Sartorialist was in Hong Kong/Beijing at the same time??? Coincidence? Or am I just not paying attention?

ashley said...

Insane...It's literally like falling down the rabbit hole into wonderland. Amazing that something like this can exist when all we see daily are kmarts and starbucks! I'm tucking myself into your suitcase for round two!