Is the Writing on the Wall for Beijing’s Caochangdi Art District? – 北京草场地艺术区的墙上写的是什么?

Opinion - 24 Jul 2018

Is the Writing on the Wall for Beijing’s Caochangdi Art District?

A number of galleries have recently been marked for demolition, and a number more fear for their long-term survival

By Tom Mouna

Last week the ominous graffiti marking 拆 – pronounced chāi and translated as demolish – appeared on several buildings, including X Gallery and de Sarthe, in Caochangdi, a quasi-art district that sits roughly 20km northeast from the centre of Beijing and is the capital’s second most important locus of galleries after the 798 art district. The crudely written Chinese character is commonly painted onto the outside of buildings to designate impending and – practically always – unstoppable demolition. The marked galleries were informed that they would have to pack up and leave several days before the spray-painted character and typed notice arrived.

The best-known of these, de Sarthe, has said that their landlord was forced to give them until the end of July to leave, with the property’s owner unclear as to the exact reason for the government-led directive, although one theory about a new high-speed train track is circulating. ‘We are now looking for a warehouse space to store our artworks and then for a new gallery space in Beijing, perhaps in 798 or maybe somewhere else such as the centre of the city,’ said Nessa Cui, the Director of de Sarthe’s Beijing outpost. The handful of sites to have been notified that they will be torn down all abut a train track, something a more centrally-located gallery owner told me has always made these particular Caochangdi sites somewhat compromised.


Is the Writing on the Wall for Beijing’s Caochangdi Art District? - 北京草场地艺术区的墙上写的是什么?

de Sarthe Gallery, Caochangdi, Beijing. Courtesy: de Sarthe Gallery, Beijing / Hong Kong

News of the planned demolition spread quickly through Beijing’s art community, especially since it has not been unusual for building clearance in Beijing to begin seemingly innocuously before expanding rapidly. The worry among Caochangdi’s 20 or so galleries as well as the tenants of a number of artist’s studios and other creative enterprises is just how widespread the currently small-scale demolitions may become. A number of stoical long-term residents told me that rumours of impending destruction have been circulating pretty much since Ai Weiwei chose Caochangdi as the site for his studio in 1999 and a subsequent grouping of red brick buildings currently home to galleries such as Chambers Fine Art, Ink Studio and Taikang Space, put the district on the Beijing art map.


Is the Writing on the Wall for Beijing’s Caochangdi Art District? - 北京草场地艺术区的墙上写的是什么?

Previous site of Galerie Urs Meile, Caochangdi, Beijing. Courtesy: Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing / Lucerne

Whether a conscious effort on the part of local government or not, spaces for galleries and artists in Beijing have dwindled in recent years. Both Heiqiao, an artist studio-filled village nearby, and the Iowa Co-Op complex of artist’s studio located minutes from Caochangdi were both levelled last year. In the proximate Huantie area, much has been reported on the planned and still yet to be completed destruction of artist Huang Rui’s studio which was announced in September last year. Just this year Galerie Urs Meile, a stalwart of Caochangdi, moved to 798 due to problems with their Caochangdi property, which does however remain standing. With these recent events in mind, as well as a longer history of parts of Beijing being razed, most of the galleries and sites that offered comments, whether currently marked out for destruction or not, have a fatalistic outlook on the demolitions and the rumours of more to come: in Beijing pragmatic gallerists know that they could receive the 拆 graffiti at any moment.


Is the Writing on the Wall for Beijing’s Caochangdi Art District? - 北京草场地艺术区的墙上写的是什么?

Studio O, Caochangdi, Beijing. Courtesy: Studio O; photograph: Elisa Cucinelli

Effi Meridor is an architect whose company, Studio O, has been based in Caochangdi for the last five years. While acknowledging the relatively privileged position that a well-financed architectural firm has compared to local shops and restaurants, he suggests a reframing of the often doom-filled prophecies of Beijing and Caochangdi’s destruction: ‘The destruction can also be seen as an opportunity, it’s important to acknowledge that there are creative possibilities in destruction.’ He does however recognize that more often than not the speed and harshness of Beijing’s demolitions leave little space for creative thinking, something he hoped he might be able to influence when he recently approached those in charge of Caochangdi to offer to work together to discuss possible plans. Ultimately, he tells me, like any rapidly developing metropolis, Beijing will grow outwards – as the tall glass office and apartment buildings of nearby Wangjing which creep ever closer to Caochangdi attest.


Is the Writing on the Wall for Beijing’s Caochangdi Art District? - 北京草场地艺术区的墙上写的是什么?

Ai Weiwei's studio complex, Caochangdi, Beijing. Courtesy: Ai Weiwei

Demolitions in China get much media attention and international media outlets are quick to report on the ferocious pace and scarce humanitarian provisioning of some of these programmes of destruction. Artists seeking the larger spaces and cheaper rents that only the further reaches of the city can now provide are regularly the ones caught in the front line. While the arts media is often quick to shine a light on the plight of these artists, reporting often fits too easily into the dominant yet underdeveloped narrative of Chinese artists versus the government. Forced eviction and demolition is nonetheless an undeniable reality of contemporary Beijing. As China’s development continues apace, and Beijing’s seemingly inevitable destruction and rebuilding follows, the words spoken to me by the director of XC. HuA Gallery, which opened in Caochangdi just last year, ring loud: ‘How to balance and weigh individual rights versus the overall speed of development is the urgent question facing China today.’

Main image: 拆 ‘to be demolished’ graffiti in Caochangdi, Beijing, 2018. Courtesy: Josh Feola

Tom Mouna

Tom Mouna is a writer based in Beijing.

De Sarthe
X Gallery
Huang Rui
Galerie Urs Meile

《意见》24卷2018是北京曹场地艺术区的墙上写的吗?最近,一些画廊被标示为拆除,而且更多的人担心Tom Mouna的长期生存。上周,不怀好意的涂鸦标志——CH I和翻译为“拆除”出现在几个建筑上。NGS,包括X画廊和de Sarthe,位于曹场地,一个准艺术区,位于北京市中心东北约20公里处,是首都798艺术区后第二个最重要的画廊所在地。粗俗的汉字通常被画在建筑物外面,以指明迫在眉睫和几乎总是不可阻挡的拆除。这些标志性的画廊被告知,他们必须收拾好,并在喷漆字符和类型通知到达前几天离开。其中最著名的是de Sarthe,他们说他们的房东被迫在七月底之前离开他们,财产所有者不清楚政府领导的指令的确切原因,尽管一个新的高速列车轨道的理论正在流传。“我们现在正在寻找一个仓库空间来存储我们的艺术品,然后在北京的一个新画廊空间,也许在798,也许在其他地方,比如城市的中心,”de Sarthe北京前哨的导演Nessa Cui说。少数的网站被通知他们将被拆除所有的火车轨道,一个更集中的画廊老板告诉我,总是使这些特殊的草昌地网站有些妥协。DeasCuroCoudidi.JPG Is the Writing on the Wall for Beijing’s Caochangdi Art District? - 北京草场地艺术区的墙上写的是什么? de萨尔特画廊,曹昌迪,北京。礼貌:DE萨尔特画廊,北京/香港的计划拆除新闻迅速传播通过北京的艺术界,特别是因为它是不寻常的,在北京建设间隙开始看似无害,然后迅速扩大。曹场地20个画廊以及一些艺术家工作室和其他创意企业的租户们担心的是,目前小规模的拆迁可能会有多广泛。一些老顽固的居民告诉我,迫在眉睫的毁灭性传言已经流传很广,因为艾未未选择曹昌迪作为他的工作室在1999和随后的红砖建筑,目前在画廊,如商会美术,Ink Stu集团。迪奥和太康空间,把北京的艺术地图放在区上。045.JPG Is the Writing on the Wall for Beijing’s Caochangdi Art District? - 北京草场地艺术区的墙上写的是什么?以前的网站的画廊URS MeILE,曹昌迪,北京。礼貌:Galerie Urs Meile,北京/卢塞恩,不管是地方政府的自觉努力,还是北京的画廊和艺术家的空间,近年来都有所减少。Heiqiao,一个艺术家工作室附近的村庄,和爱荷华合作社工作室的艺术家工作室位于Caochangdi分钟,都是去年水平。在临近的华帝地区,已经报道了去年九月宣布的艺术家黄瑞工作室的计划和尚未完成的销毁。就在这一年,曹昌迪的一个壮士乌尔斯梅尔,由于他们的草场地地产的问题而搬迁到了798号,但这仍然屹立不倒。考虑到最近发生的这些事件,以及北京部分地区被夷为平地的历史,大多数提供评论的画廊和网站,无论是目前被认定为破坏还是不存在,都具有毁灭性的宿命观和更多的谣言:在北京IC艺人知道他们随时都可以收到涂鸦。Studio O30.JPG Is the Writing on the Wall for Beijing’s Caochangdi Art District? - 北京草场地艺术区的墙上写的是什么?工作室O,曹昌迪,北京。礼貌:O工作室;照片:ELISA Cujeleli Effi Melior是一个建筑师,他的公司,工作室O,已经在Caochangdi的基础上,在过去的五年。他承认,一家资金雄厚的建筑公司与当地的商店和餐馆相比,享有相对优惠的地位,他建议重新审视北京经常毁灭的预言和曹昌迪的毁灭:“毁灭也可以看作是一个机会,我他承认,在破坏中有创造性的可能性是很重要的。然而,他承认,北京强拆的速度和严酷往往不给创造性思维留下多少空间,他希望他在最近的一段时间里能够对此产生影响。请曹长帝负责人共同商讨可能的计划。最后,他告诉我,和任何快速发展的大都市一样,北京也会向外发展——因为望京附近的高大玻璃办公室和公寓楼,爬得离曹昌地越来越近。C246D45 CE55 87F664 E75 52629 FD7EE5.JPG WPA6024602IMG艾未未工作室联合体,曹昌迪,北京。礼貌:Ai Weiwei Demolitions在中国得到了很多媒体的关注,国际媒体迅速报道了一些破坏方案的凶猛步伐和稀缺的人道主义供给。艺术家寻求更大的空间和更便宜的租金,只有城市的进一步延伸,现在可以提供的是经常被困在前线的那些人。虽然艺术媒体往往很快就照亮了这些艺术家的困境,但报道往往太容易融入到中国艺术家与政府的主导而欠发达的叙事中。强迫驱逐和拆除仍然是当代北京不可否认的现实。随着中国的发展继续快速发展,北京似乎不可避免的破坏和重建,XC主任对我说的话。去年刚刚在曹长邸开幕的华画廊响起了响亮的响声:“如何平衡和权衡个人权利与整体发展速度是当今中国面临的紧迫问题。”主要形象:Caochangdi“北京”2018号的涂鸦。礼貌:乔治费拉姆汤姆山汤姆是一个作家在北京。意见绅士化中国曹长地德萨尔特X画廊北京建筑黄瑞画廊


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