Around the 1990s, Yuanmingyuan, in Beijing, was China's earliest professional artist gathering place. Out of this came a group of outstanding artists that shocked the world. Yuanmingyuan opened a window, letting people know the living conditions of Chinas professional artists, of Chinese modern art. But sadly, until today, two decades later, I also don't understand what caused the first generation of professional artists, who have now created what is now considered Chinese contemporary art, to flee to other areas of the world. China's first art district, Yuanmingyuan art village, disappeared quite quickly with no explanation.
At the beginning of the new century, Chinese contemporary art, which had been silent for 10 years, gradually became more apparent with the rising of galleries and art districts in Beijing. Especially during the recent seven or eight years, Beijing has formed more than ten creditable art districts. The number of professional artists and art events are so many that they can no longer be compared with Yuanmingyuan. I remember once, in my New York Solo Exhibition, a Chinese visitor who had never been to Beijing asked me, Are you from Beijing? Do you know 798? Which district is your studio located in? ! Chinese art conditions are unthinkably vast and flourishing when viewed from the rest of the world.
Professional artists now have the opportunity to appear in large-scale, worldwide art activities. There are now so many of these opportunities that China can now be a part of. Chinese artists, in the international art stage, have the chance to become a familiar name around the world. Now artists from all around the world happily come to Beijing to attend exhibitions and participate in art exchange. Even many well-known international institutions bring branches into Beijing. Thus, Chinas contemporary art scene has become the new focus of the world, and China has initially formed a healthy environment for contemporary art. Beijing can now compete to be the worlds top art scene, going head to head with world-class art capitals such as the New York, Paris, and London. A new art world capital is forming.
Artists gathering brings the art zones to life, which largely plays a role of promoting Chinese contemporary art and its development and popularization. The art market is so good and it lets artists live, finally becoming an occupation in China. Foreign artists are envious of this. However, many things are always what they are meant to be. Four years ago, Beijing international art battalion, located in the Suojiacun, was torn down. The memory of this destruction is still fresh in my mind. At that time, artists defended their homes using the international media and various channels to contact government official and others seeking help. But finally, they stood behind the heavily armed officers, watching a big forklift destroy good houses and good artist studios. This summer in Beijings Chaoyang district, where most of China's most art zones are found, these world famous but short-lived art zones will be torn down due to the needs of urban development. Regardless of whether the existence of art zone is necessary to a region or even a country, at least, it is not harmful, because professional artists are mostly made of professors, and graduates of major national academies of fine art. The professional artist community is actually a batch of intellectuals, pursuits of ideal and freedom. Whether in the past or at present, no art district can really become the citys scenery, Chinas scenery. As an artist, I think it is a pity! After thousands of years of culture and art accumulation, people today are still insensitive of art and pioneer culture. But art illiterates exploitation of a lot of bad sculptures, silly construction, urban planning and countless tourist attractions has become scenery that is not easily dismantled today.
Artists hate the gradually formed scale of international art zone in an already mature art market that is unprecedentedly active in the modern art atmosphere. All this will face a fatal blow with each disappearing art zone. Perhaps only we ourselves are concerned about this, why would others care? But no matter what, artists must eat and sleep, draw and drink everyday. When this place is removed, artists will go somewhere else. Rent for places close to the city turns is becoming more and more expensive. Besides, we have become accustomed to migration of life. Now, large numbers of artists have gradually moved to Songzhuang - this rural area far away from the metropolis, staying together through the artists that came early to enjoy a rural farmers life. Just like fish must live in water, and birds need the sky to fly, artists need to gather, they need an art environment, need spacious and bright studios to conduct art creation. We gether together -- are for a lifetime dream. Even if one day, Songzhuang is removed, artists will also find other places gethering and seeking dreams.
Beijing Songzhuang Night of August 26, 2009