Visiting the 798 Art District has been, by far, my favorite excursion on this trip. As an industrial design major, I really appreciated every single exhibit and it was so inspiring to get a taste of the thriving art community in Beijing. A lot of the artwork and galleries revolved around political and social commentary, specifically on original socialist realism, so it was extremely eye-opening to see multiple varying perspectives through each artist’s creative expression.
798 Art Zone contains a series of decommissioned military factory buildings with unique canvases by graffiti artists and quirky shops selling local arts and crafts. The area also houses many notable open-air sculptures, such as a headless Chairman Mao. Sifting through the different galleries, I saw the political and social commentary come to life through very thought provoking forms.
Exploring a much different part of Beijing, apart from the traditional Chinese architecture and scenic spots, was eye opening because I was able to understand the modern issues that China was facing in a completely different light. The stores sold interesting postcards and local art pieces, and the streets were crowded with sculptures, people, and artists.
Painted on one of the walls of 798, I saw a graphic that said, “We are not painters, we are writers.” There was a sense of liberation in those words, and I think it really served as a good umbrella theme for the art district. Every single exhibit told a story, whether it was about history, politics, or social themes, and it led the audience from a beginning to an end.