798 Art Zone

Shortly after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, a gigantic Chinese-Soviet military and industrial co-operation program was launched in the Dashanzi district North-East of Beijing. You find the site at N 39 Deg. 58.972' / E 116 Deg. 29.571' and it is now called the 798 Art Zone (798艺术区). The People's Liberation Army's demand for electronic components was not fulfilled by the Soviet partner to the extend required, so that China turned to then Communist Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic) which just had been formed out of the Soviet Occupied Zone in Germany. To make it easy for foreign intelligence services, the Chinese numbered military factories starting with the digit "7". It started in the district with factory 718 and by time grew up to 798. Operation of 718 lasted from 1957 and the uncompetitive nature of the state owned complex did not survive the opening and reform policy and declined until it was largely abandoned in the 1990s.

This was also the time when first artists were moving in looking for cheap space. In 1995 also the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts moved workshops there and a nucleus for a growing cluster of artists was laid. In 2004 it was achieved that the destruction of the buildings was halted and a bill passed to develop the site into an Arts District. As a consequence the owner of the buildings did not renew lease contracts to have the chance driving out tenants and redevelop the land in a more profitable modern format. In 2007 though it was decided to keep and refurbish the Art Zone.

Today it is a lively place full of galleries, studios, workshops, design centres, cafes and restaurants. It is amazing what amount of space and hardware is available. Here is where you find everything from pretty nice galleries to Mao Kitch. There is not one list of galleries available online. So, the best thing is to go there and have a look.