Sascha passed away on the 9th of April, 2015, aged 40. We last met a year earlier to his final day in Beijing, during his residency in the Three Shadows in Chaochangdi. The Fotografie Forum Frankfurt shows some of what remains: his photos. The exhibition will be still on until January 29th. As Sascha has put it before: "The perfect moment has to vanish. Otherwise we would just stay". Sascha was a romantic traveller with a camera.
Yesterday, August 16th, was the opening of Jean-Claude Mougin's photo exhibition le jour / la nuit in the 798 Art District Beijing. It was the first time for me, that I had a close look at palladium process photo prints. They are really beautiful. Most of his photos exhibited are 18 cm x 18 cm, and some are larger portrait formats. I very much like his pictures taken in Kairouan (Tunesia). Some are available on Jean-Claude's website.
This weekend was the "Beijing Affordable Art Fair" in the so-called Space of the 798 Art District. This is a catory of works selling between about 1000 to 5000 US$. I was expecting this event to be something like a show of artistic talent. But when you take away the Cultural Revolution re-makes, the pseudo-intellectual social criticism, the plain copies of others, and the nude paintings, then there is not much left to look at. A handful, perhaps, but nothing really distinct. There are very good young painters in the pipeline, but they were not exhibited here.
798 is becoming more and more an entertainment district, which develops all kinds of disciplines from galleries, over design studios to theatres. Some people complain about this development, but I think by this it becomes actually more interesting. It is anyways a necessary change for the district to survive, because it can not compete with the real art centers. In terms of entertainment it adds nice elements and increases diversity of options to choose from (specially for those who do not like shopping malls, bars and KTV which you find more than enough in any Chinese city). Everything is here: from serious, over dramatic to funny.
Shortly after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, a gigantic Chinese-Soviet military and industrial co-operation program was launched in the Dashanzi district North-East of Beijing. You find the site at N 39 Deg. 58.972' / E 116 Deg. 29.571' and it is now called the 798 Art Zone (798艺术区). The People's Liberation Army's demand for electronic components was not fulfilled by the Soviet partner to the extend required, so that China turned to then Communist Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic) which just had been formed out of the Soviet Occupied Zone in Germany. To make it easy for foreign intelligence services, the Chinese numbered military factories starting with the digit "7". It started in the district with factory 718 and by time grew up to 798. Operation of 718 lasted from 1957 and the uncompetitive nature of the state owned complex did not survive the opening and reform policy and declined until it was largely abandoned in the 1990s.
This was also the time when first artists were moving in looking for cheap space. In 1995 also the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts moved workshops there and a nucleus for a growing cluster of artists was laid. In 2004 it was achieved that the destruction of the buildings was halted and a bill passed to develop the site into an Arts District. As a consequence the owner of the buildings did not renew lease contracts to have the chance driving out tenants and redevelop the land in a more profitable modern format. In 2007 though it was decided to keep and refurbish the Art Zone.
Today it is a lively place full of galleries, studios, workshops, design centres, cafes and restaurants. It is amazing what amount of space and hardware is available. Here is where you find everything from pretty nice galleries to Mao Kitch. There is not one list of galleries available online. So, the best thing is to go there and have a look.