Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

17th June 2013

THE ART DISTRICT

inspired by Duchamp.

This is my last newsletter from Beijing before heading back to the UK. (Do I hear a sigh of relief?)
798 is Beijing's Art District. A massive area in the north east of the city, once an area of military factories, is now given over to a thriving art community so fascinating that my first visit wasn't long enough to explore it fully. So I returned for another look.
There are galleries, design studios, exhibitions, sculpture, restaurants and performances in the massive network of industrial buildings which have retained their character with old machinery, pipes, engines and turbines. It is a popular place fo rBeijingers, to dress up, see and be seen and even have their wedding photographs taken.
Art has often been brave to speak out in repressive regimes. Although there are the usual bland commercial offerings here there are also avant garde exhibitions. I was surprised to see an excellent exhibition based on Marcel Duchamp and the influence he has on Chinese contemporary artists and even more so to see work by controversial Ai Wei Wei who is in exile and disapproved of by the Chinese government. Also an exhibition about Tibet - another sensitive issue.
In a week when an anniversary of a certain student rebellion in a square beginning with T was totally excised from any mention this is surprising. Personal e mails are monitored and censored. Security was massive on the day. Face Book isn't allowed here. I have no doubt that if I write the name in full this piece will disappear from your view.
On a lighter note, we had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant on site called Buddah's Bites. It was reviewed in a copy of Time Out we picked up. Once inside and seated, the menu was worrying. chicken thighs, beef strips, lamb chop, pork belly. maybe we were in the wrong place. No - there was no meat or fish involved - just a clever chef who  carved and cooked vegetables to simulate meat dishes. It is an art form in itself. But the food was tasty and good in its own right. Why indulge in this artifice? It is weird.
I will leave china with happy memories of friendly generous people, comfortable hotels and exceptional service. Pride in beating language  problems and reaching interesting places by public transport. At no time have I felt uneasy or threatened even late at night. But I will leave with a terrible cough, dripping nose and sore eyes due to pollution on a massive scale. And nightmares about food horrors and animal welfare.




Sent from my iPad

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