The 798 Art Street in Beijing was on my “must see” list for a long time but I never had enough time to visit. The Street is conveniently located between the airport and the city BUT if you are rushing from one meeting to another your time is so precious and limited.
Last year I flew to Beijing a few days before my first official appointment especially to make time for a visit to the 798 Art Street. I heard lots about it but the size and the amount of exhibits really surprised me.
798 Art Street is located in old factories designed by German architects during the 1950s which slowly became empty and disused. During 2004 the critic and curator Leng Lin founded an art community in the area which grew, and today the artistic community around 798 Street represents a place where you can easily find contemporary Chinese artists mixing with international artists. The whole place, indoors and outdoors, is a huge exhibition covered with paintings, funky sculptures, videos, photography. Some of the exhibits involve spectators and you can see the whole family enjoying art – not in the traditional way by standing in front of it and discussing curves or colours – they are actually trying to fit into shapes which do look like a human body but expressing different motions like running or sleeping….
798 Art Street also organises fashion shows, big international art exhibitions and promotions so check if anything is scheduled during your visit.
There are two art festivals held each year:
Beijing 798 Art Festival – Takes place from the end of April to the end of May.
Beijing 798 Creative Art Festival – Takes place from the end of September to the end of October.
It opens at around 11am and does get busy especially during the weekend. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to spend half a day as there is so much to see and experience. There are plenty of international cafes/bars:
Vincent Cafe run by Mr Vincent, a French ex pat, offers pancakes, my favourite is the cheese and mushroom pancake.
At Cafe run by Mr. Huang Rui, who is adamant that his coffee is much better than Starbucks! Also good for pizza.
I managed to add some photographs to Pinterest which you can check by clicking here.
Opening hours of 798 Art Street: 11am – 7pm Tue – Sun. Closed on Mon & Public holidays. Entry is free.