Day6 Beijing ART industry

Beijing International Art Biennale, writing

Two years ago after visiting the 798 district in Beijing, I wanted to see the Chaoyang district situated north of the 798. Could I walk? No it is too far. I got the directions written in Chinese on paper and found a taxi. The driver did not know where it was and while driving got onto his mobile phone to get directions. The man’s taxi ID photo stuck squarely on the dashboard did not match up with my driver’s face, so I imagined he was the cousin talking to the real taxi driver for directions. But we drove and drove, onto the highways and the ring roads of Beijing. I think we are driving in circles, I said crossly. He got back onto the phone and because I did not know where we were going either I looked out over the grey field looking for any kind of reference point. After some time we got off the highway. Then we entered a long avenue with painting workshops. At last, I felt a sense of relief. On either side the shops displaying rows upon rows of painted canvases. Flower arrangements, landscapes, men and women in revolutionary poses, horses and riders on the steppe, trucks, tractors and children in barren landscapes. Then, in front of us SCORCHING SUN OF TIBET – CONTEMPORARY TIBETAN ART SHOW, a massive building. That is where we stopped.  The taxi driver pointed out motioning with hands that he could wait, there would be no taxi back. I kindly thanked him and dismissed him, I would find my way back. Shaking his head he drove off. I entered the Song Zhuang art centre, in the Kuni village, Song town, Tongzhou District. I was dazzled by such a vast collection of impressive works from Tibet. Large bold paintings, installations and sculptures. 2012, I am back in the same museum, and I realise the taxi driver had brought me to the wrong location, but despite my mumbling, I am grateful, because he had brought me to the Industrial Art zone of Beijing. Marc, Peter and Tinne had planned this visit. Peter organized a bus (with Jane our tour-guide), Marc and Tinne, mapped out where to see and what. Today some 10.000 artists live and work in the Songzhuang. I have been trying to work out how many that is.

pingpongWe stopped briefly at Marc’s comfortable studio, sporting large black and white paintings and one ping-pong table. Next door the studio was used as a gallery and meeting place and amongst other works showed some of Tinne’s paintings. A ping-pong table was also present. (they laughed, it seemed like a must have item amongst the well to do artists). Across the road, more studios and a piano store. Marc told us that the rent is approximately 300 Euro per month. But at the rate of expansion and demand in the art village he did not know how long that would last. In recent years the demand on rentable space has gone up by 70%. Artists are not the only ones looking for affordable studios, and they have to compete with property developers . In the bus on the way to the Shangshan museum, Marc pointed out new studios and galleries.  ‘Last year this was a field’, he said shrugging his shoulders. In disbelief I looked at row upon row of double storied buildings, with new name tags giving an identity to a otherwise anonymous uniformity; gallery of HongKong, gallery Shanghai, gallery cube this or cube that.

Sunshine International Museum entrance hall

Sunshine International Museum entrance hall

At the museum of the Shangshan Art Centre in Songzhuang, the owner showed us round his 2 storied buildings. Ten artists had recently installed their installations. Hans Mes and Nancy Kozikowski showed us their work in the spacious building.  With great new wealth streaming towards successful businessmen it is not uncommon for them to build a museum especially for their collection. The owner kindly invited us to have something to eat, but we regretfully declined; Marc had us on a tight schedule. Being overwhelmed by hospitality and the sheer size, vastness of the museum space, we set off to our next destination; more artists studios. The smaller paintings measuring 3×4 meters ( that is the size of my studio) and of course the ping-pong tables. Then to the MOCA an other privately own museum. But before that we stopped briefly at the Sunshine International Museum.

We entered, I saw the entrance room and  the 2012 catalogue which was published in 3 separate books (each spine measuring 7cm in width) and walked out again. There was no time to walk 3 football pitches of art. Then the MOCA and then an other museum, ‘art is a drug’, or art is a medicine that ensure good health. With all that art in my eye I felt the artist inside me struggle with such a confrontation off the vastness, the mass of the art. It began to lose its point. I asked Linda our guide if she was brought up with art. ”Once a week”, she told me, ”we used to get calligraphy or painting in high school”. Asking Tinne who lives in the Art village, ”who buys all this art?” Tinne: They are used as gifts. In China, if  you like your job, you should give your boss a painting. Everyone knows in China that art is a good investment. Chinese art, mind you; they may even frowndown on western art. The painting is not seen as a bribe, but puts you in a better position for a possible promotion. And as a successful businessman you should have a good piece of art in your office and your house. Now I truly understood what the Art industry was, but what did it mean for me? Where is my place in the Arts? Where does this  leave me? Is there any point? Will any efforts succeed?

Today I met up with Sara Rahanjam, Raheleh Salmani Nooravar, Eva Petric, Guadalupe Luceno   Farzana Ahmed, Marc Baufrere, Harumi Sonoyama  ,Tasana Kondee, HansMes & Beke, Nancy Kozikowski, Peyman Shafieezadeh extra