Cao Chang Di
Just 40 minutes walk North of the Beijing 798 Arts District, at about N 39 Deg. 59.808' / E 116 Deg. 29.917', you get to another gallery and workshop district which is called Cao Chang Di. As this is still in the middle of local suburban Chinese life, this is also where artists live, and the galleries get more square meters per Yuan. This is also a place where some more serious galleries moved.
"In 798 you have to protect your works from this zoo of people, who lean against it to take a photo", I was told. Cao Chang Di, is definitely more refined in terms of galleries than 798, but still I also like the "zoo" mainly because I think it is so much nicer seeing young people there than in a shopping mall. It is better to see 798 as a Cultural Entertainment Centre, and I think it is nice to have it. Also the reputation and commercial value are the only arguments protecting it from being torn down and "developed" into another block of high rise buildings. And in the end also still many artists have to make a living on selling postcards and handicraft, for which 798 has much of space.
Cao Chang Di is different. Also "iewieW iA" (I spelled the name reverse to avoid trouble) has his studio there and he designed quite a few buildings in which you find very interesting galleries. Beijing Fine Arts is one of them and Alexander Ochs another. But the best is to stroll around and see what exhibitions are on. Just this will take at least a day.
On the walk back through 798 I was lucky to drop into the opening of an exhibition called "The Boat Crossing the River", showing the sculptures of Zhang Yong at the Joy Art Gallery, curated by Wu Hong and Wang Haitao. I did not expect much more than a clean toilet when I went in, but then had a nice surprise.
I liked most his sculpture "Night Crossing" which is a casted copper cube on which top you see only a head of a boy and a horse swimming in the waves. It was unfortunately impossible to take a photo of it, given the dim light. But even boosting ISO to 6400 it is just an object very hard to capture, because what makes it amazing, is only very small detail on the surface on a rough block. I liked also a few other sculptures and "Orientation" (photo) is one of the other sculptures which caught my attention. Perhaps a year ago, it would have been "Listing in the Rain".