Beijing’s Art District
798 is the site of state-owned factories including Factory 798, which originally produced electronics. The area is referred to as the 798 Art District or Factory 798 although technically, Factory #798 is only one of several structures inside a complex formerly known as 718 Joint Factory.
The Joint Factory produced a wide variety of military and civilian equipment. Civilian production included acoustic equipment for Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium and Great Hall of the People, as well as all the loudspeakers on Tian’anmen Square and along Chang’an Avenue. Military components were also exported to China’s Communist allies, and helped establish North Korea’s wireless electronics industry.
Beginning in 2002, artists and cultural organisations began to divide, rent and re-design the factory spaces, gradually developing them into galleries, art centres, artists’ studios and restaurants and bars.
The bars and restaurants are located everywhere amongst this expansive complex so when you are tired there is always the opportunity for a bite to eat and something to drink. A good idea is to buy a map of the area or take a photo of the map on the wall as you enter as there are many small streets and it’s very easy to get lost.
On one occasion in winter, friends and I stopped in a western bar for a meal and glass of wine and ended up staying a few hours just to get out of the cold and of course to enjoy a few glasses of wine. At christmas time, it was nice to see christmas display out the front of shops including singing santas.
798 frequently holds international art exhibitions as well as fashion shows. In order to expand the reputation and influence of the art zone and to promote the development of the modern art, 798 has held the 798 Art Festival and the 798 Creative Art Festival every year since 2006. The two festivals focus on exhibition and communication of culture and art.
At 798 you can find art ranging from classical through to modern, some inexpensive and others incredibly expensive; but something to suit everyone I think. There is high quality graffiti on a lot of the external walls and many wonderful shops selling a range of items including one shop selling inexpensive black and white [with a shot of colour] photographs of people and places around China – a must to see and definitely worth buying. I particularly like the outside art and sculptures; they are just great to look at as you are walking around the complex.