China’s quiet cultural revolution: A guide to 4 art districts

As China’s art scene continues to grow, a real cultural revolution is taking place as famous architects continue to build new art centres.

Beijing’s 798 Art District of art galleries is internationally known, as blue-chip galleries like Pace Gallery have set up shop there. But have you heard of the other cultural districts in China? Here is a look at four ambitious art sites currently under construction and spread throughout China.

Beijing's 798 Art District. Image courtesy 798 Art District.

Beijing’s 798 Art District. Image courtesy 798 Art District.

Beijing’s 798 Art District of studios, art galleries and shops is well known, having received extensive press coverage since its birth in 1995. However, other cultural sites in China are equally as ambitious, perhaps even more so, yet receive scant attention in the international media.

From Chengdu to Pingtan, Art Radar takes a look at China’s quiet cultural revolution.

Chengdu Contemporary Art Centre by Zaha Hadid. Image courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects.

Chengdu Contemporary Art Centre by Zaha Hadid. Image courtesy
Zaha Hadid Architects.

Chengdu

Chengdu will be home to the world’s largest building, as the city undergoes a huge cultural rebuilding, according to design blog Arch2o. One of the planned gems is the Chengdu New Century City Art Centre designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Located in Sichuan Province, the CCAC will span 200,000 square metres, making it not only the largest building in China but across the world. The complex will contain three auditoria, an art museum, centres for art exhibitions, conferences, lectures and workshops, plus a retail area with shops, bars and restaurants.

Plans for a 30,000-square-metre contemporary art museum, a 12,000-square-metre exhibition hall, and a 1800-seat grand theatre will make this the “largest and most comprehensive arts and cultural centre in West China,” writes Arch2o.

The Datong Art Museum designed by Foster + Partners. Image courtesy www.dezeen.com.

The Datong Art Museum designed by Foster + Partners. Image courtesy www.dezeen.com.

Datong

The Datong Art Museum in Datong, Shanxi Province is China’s “Museum of the 21st Century” according to an article in Dezeen. Designed by London-based Foster + Partners, the 32,000-square-metre venue is part of Datong New City’s cultural plaza.

Set underground with only the pyramid-shaped roof visible to the sky, the Museum contains a Grand Gallery exhibition space measuring 37 metres high and almost eighty metres wide, designed to accommodate large-scale works of art.

Datong, which is 1040 metres above sea level and perched on the border with Inner Mongolia, is subject to its fair share of extreme weather. The Museum is specially designed to cope with the city’s climate of long winters with minimal sunshine, making use of high-level skylights and a heavily insulated roof.

Pingtan Art Museum will be located on a manmade island accessible only by undulating bridge. Image courtesy MAD.

Pingtan Art Museum will be located on a manmade island accessible only by undulating bridge. Image courtesy MAD.

Pingtan

Pingtan Art Museum plans to be the largest private art museum (40,000 square metres) in Asia, scheduled to open in 2016. Beijing’s MAD Architects designed the three-dune-shaped museum to be constructed on an artificial island in Fujian province, near the soon-to-be-built city of Pingtan. Dezeen adds the museum plans to showcase approximately 1000 works of Chinese art in its debut exhibition, but with no details on the works themselves.

China is promoting the project as a bridge to build cultural ties between China and Taiwan, but Taiwan’s government has stated that it does not officially support the cross-straits project.

22 International Art Plaza in Beijing. Image courtesy Beijing 22.

22 International Art Plaza in Beijing. Image courtesy Beijing 22.

22 International Art Plaza in Beijing

22 International Art Plaza in Beijing opened on 15 November 2009 in the city’s Central Business District (CBD). It is home to artists’ studios, the Today Art Museum, and has space to accommodate 100 art galleries, says the China Daily. 

What makes this art zone attractive to emerging artists is that exhibitions and street level auction sales are conducted regularly to promote living artists’ works. In addition, collaboration with foreign embassies helps foreign artists exhibit their art to local Chinese audiences. Wang Xotong, General Manager of the plaza, explained to China Daily that art zone managers “emphasise both art exhibition and sale. We are trying to provide a complete industry chain.”

Susan Kendzulak

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Related Topics: museums, art districts, China, Taiwan, art as soft power, lists

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