xu yong at 798 space

Xu Yong, who runs 798 Space in the Dashanzi arts district in Beijing, where the recent 大山子艺术节 Dashanzi International Arts Festival was held is the subject of an interview today in the New York Times, and talks about the threat of demolition hanging over the factories – like similar artist spaces in Shanghai and Guangzhou – has temporarily abated.

For Mr. Xu, 50, part of the factory’s value is intrinsic. The compound was active in the 1960’s and 70’s and many Maoist slogans (like “Chairman Mao is the red sun in our hearts”) painted on the walls during the Cultural Revolution remain visible. Such propaganda, once ubiquitous, is now rare, and the building is a powerful reminder. “The Cultural Revolution was terrible, so most people would rather simply forget it,” Mr. Xu said in an interview, “but we need to take stock of the past.”

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For now, the scales seem tipped in favor of the art. When the developer moved to shut down the Dashanzi International Art Festival in late April, citing violations of parking and fire regulations, the government rejected the complaints and sent word that the show should proceed. “Even a year ago that would not have happened,” Mr. Xu said, adding that he was told by “a reliable source” that the government planned to protect the area so it could establish an art district similar to SoHo in New York in time for the 2008 Olympics.