Ten years ago Renzhuang village, a spit from the center of Beijing in the Tongzhou district, became the home of the 宋庄画家村画廊 Songzhuang Artist Village Gallery, which is now celebrating the anniversary with a huge exhibition of 100 artists that represent the strength of contemporary Chinese avant-garde. The International Herald Tribune wrote on the artist scenes in Beijing and Shanghai (no mention of the kick-arse one in Guangzhou though) which have become foci for art across China.
Shanghai’s first organic art movement is at Suzhou Creek, where artists hold open house in abandoned factories and warehouses.
There are also independent artists like Xu Weiqiang, who rent cheap space for as long as it lasts (bearing in mind that the authorities broke up Beijing’s Summer Palace community in 1995 and plan a marina development in Suzoh Creek).
“Beijing is the center of art, politics, economics and everything,” says Xu. “But art in Beijing is under political pressure. Here is Shanghai it is not. My work has no political influence – it comes from the heart. And art belongs to human beings. Where you showcase it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that the people can join in.”
The disturbing thing is that all of these places including Dazhanzi in Beijing and Xiaoguwei in Guangzhou are either under threat of demolition or already brick dust. In the race to build 30 storey public toilets developers across China are wiping out the country’s art scene; the one thing China desperately needs more of.