Saturday, March 20, 2010

798 Dashanzi Art District

Amy Chou
798 Dashanzi Art District

When my taxi cab driver dropped me off across the street from, what I now believe is, the main entrance to the art district, I questioned if my taxi cab driver understood the address I gave him. I had heard that
Dashanzi Art District used to be a factory zone, but nothing looked very factory-like. However, I was reassured when I saw the big red numbers "798" next to the gate, as if they were welcoming me to a mysterious place.
The first few minutes of walking into the district
made me wonder where all of the art was, but then I saw a strange
statue of a man and I knew I was walking in the right direction. The
farther I walked into the district the stranger the atmosphere seemed
to become. I saw galleries camouflaged by old factory facades
complimented with graffiti and statues of disproportionate people or
strange creatures. Most of the statues sprawled throughout the
district were either white or red. They stood out from their
surroundings due to the clear contrast in age and style. Despite the
differences in visual elements, everything mixed well together, and
because of that, I knew that I was in a place of creativity.

Some of the galleries had redesigned their exteriors to look more
modern and they redesigned there interiors as well with new
whitewashed walls. However, many kept their original cement floors,
old wooden ceilings, worn windows, and roofs. Whether or not the
artists who rented out the spaces purposely incorporated parts of the
obsolete factories into their gallery designs, I do not know; but what
is left of the old factories adds a sense of deep history. Even though
798 Dashanzi Art District did not fully blossom until 2002, the
time-worn factories seem to act as symbols of the long history of art
and art's continuance into the future.

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