Thursday, March 12, 2009


What is this, a theme park?

When entering the 798 Art District one of the first things I noticed was its structural layout.  Expecting a SoHo type street space, where galleries sprawl down lanes that are well integrated with the city, I was surprised to find something quite different.  798 is a seemingly closed off space that is protected by a wall and has only a few designated entrances.  When entering the front gate one is sure to be greeted by a map of the included galleries.  Arrows also point to selected spaces within the district and the streets are left open for the pedestrians.  There is even a stretch that has cafes and restaurants (all pricey and with Western food).  For a second I could have been fooled into thinking I was in some kind of contemporary art theme park.  The theme of course would be that of a desolate factory, rescued from its ruins and reclaimed as a thriving creative enclave.

Although 798 does have its moments when it feels overly constructed and somewhat forced upon its visitors, I found it to be an exciting area that has some very good things to see.  Is bubbled and enclosed layout also seems to work very well for Shanghai.  798 has become a kind of safe haven for artists where creative freedom is prevalent and one can even see graffiti artists wandering the streets and tagging buildings.

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