Thursday, March 08, 2007

Factory 798 - Dashanzi

Factory 798, Dashanzi, Beijing.Unfortunately it was a Monday. I had walked almost two hours from my hotel to Dashanzi, keen to spend an afternoon poring through the treasure trove of art that the Factory 798 area was said to be.

Sure enough, once I found it, it was a treasure trove of sorts. However, being a Monday, about half the galleries and studios were closed.

From what I had read, I was expecting something highrise and chic. I found the exact opposite: low-slung and rough - but by no means any the worse for that.
Factory 798, Dashanzi, Beijing.
The Factory 798 area is a plot of (mostly) former factories (one, full of lathes, is still full at it). Of generally rough construction, they have been painted in more garish shades of the pastels that China so loves, and are full of works of art and craft that range from the nothing special and derivative to the divinely inspired.

I found the perfect presents for people back home in a ceramics shop. Many of them were too sexually themed to be appropriate for work colleagues, but I found a few pieces that would titillate without shocking. Like everything else in Beijing, I almost felt a bit guilty handing over as little money (in back-home terms) for the pieces as I did.
Factory 798, Dashanzi, Beijing.
I found a painting I liked in a studio with a loud pink exterior and a late-middle-aged female artist wearing piercing blue contact lens and a cutaway dress. It was just a picture of a vase of flowers done in heavily daubed oils that, while they spoke from the depths, did so in the sweetest tones. What sold me on it was a couple of tiny blue petals that had fallen to the bottom of the scene and gave it a poignancy I couldn't resist.
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Being China, the next 15 minutes were spent bargaining over the price. I left happier, I think, than she, but it was hard to really tell. I didn't have the cash on me so a boy from the shop took me to the nearest bank where I withdrew the money, paid him, and - I discovered back in my hotel room - left my credit card!

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