Posted by on May 16, 2011 | 1 comment

Gorilla Sculpture

Red Tree Art

Poverty Sculpture

Wolves Attack

Chinese Couple

Martyr

Wink

Fish Cool Restaurant

798 Directory

Lunch at Timezone 8

Political Slogans

Mother Praying

Cats Like Art Too

Flowery Doorway

Old Factory

Refused To Visit

Welding

Art Exhibit Construction

Wolves 1

Wolves 2

Wolves 3

Wolves 4

Wolves 5

Wolves 6

Imprisoned 1

Imprisoned 2

Green Vegetable

Mushroom Soup

Roasted Pigeon

Dinner Companions

22 April 2011

One of the places I knew I wanted to visit in Beijing was the 798 Art District. This well-known art community was named after a former military factory that was designed in the 1950s by the East Germans in the Bauhaus style. Filled with galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants, it is now considered too commercialized by many artists, who have moved on to other neighborhoods. Still, this is a must-see destination for a newcomer to Beijing, and a remarkably large number of foreigners can be found wandering around here.

It was lunch time, so the first thing we did was to look for a place to eat. I had found a restaurant online called Timezone 8 that sounded promising, so we set out to look for it. On the way we passed a table strewn with small coin purses printed with political slogans. The text was lost on me, since it was all in Chinese, but Yuan enjoyed reading them.

After a few minutes of disorientation, we managed to find the restaurant and order some lunch. For the first time since arriving in Beijing, I had found a place that had a somewhat Western-friendly menu, and we were able to order sandwiches and french fries, and use an actual fork instead of chopsticks. Unfortunately the sandwiches were dry and very bland, though the bread had a nice crunch to it, and the fries were fun to eat.

We were seated at an outdoor table, watching the crowd strolling past. Many people, both in the restaurant and on the street, were speaking languages other than Chinese, which was very refreshing for me. Before we were able to finish our meal, however, we started feeling some rain drops. All the patrons at the outdoor tables were scrambling to finish their meals and get indoors. We managed to duck inside the restaurant before getting too wet, and made our way to a back room that was being used as a bookstore. There were some very interesting modern art books, but the marked prices were very high, and the books would be heavy to carry around all day, though I was tempted by a couple of them.

The rain was picking up, and it was starting to get windy, so we figured we had better head for the nearest gallery and stay indoors for a while. We ended up in the gift shop of some kind of museum, and spent some time looking around and buying a few post cards.

After a while the rain stopped and we were able to go back to our outdoor exploration. There was quite a lot to see without even setting foot indoors, and all of the photos I have posted here were taken from outside. We did step inside a number of galleries, including the Pace Gallery, which had an entire exhibition devoted to the life and work of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. One of the most memorable moments came when we stepped inside a building and saw a roped-off area with a sign that said “Refused to Visit”, which immediately made my list of the best unintentionally-funny English translations to be found in China (the list has grown considerably since then).

Most of the galleries, and many shops, had a strict no-photos policy. The best sights were to be found outdoors, though, including many sculptures and a view of the old factory. We got a glimpse of workers constructing new exhibits, and saw a pair of cats who were apparently trying to gain access to one of the galleries.

One of my favorite displays was in an open courtyard. There as a sculpture collection depicting a scene of numerous wolves surrounding a lone man with a sword. It was fun walking around and photographing the wolves from different angles. Standing there in the middle of it was like being inside a movie scene, brought to life and frozen in time. The wolves looked so menacing that I kept half-expecting them to suddenly come to life and start attacking me.

Another display contained multiple sculptures depicting figures trapped inside cages. In the last one, the figure has broken free from his cage and stands triumphant.

There was way more to see here than we could possibly take in during a single day, and the exhibits change during the year, so I can imagine coming back here again and again and making new discoveries each time.

We left late in the afternoon to meet up with Yuan’s friends, Fang and Bing, who she had originally met when they were customers of Yuan’s company in Beijing. They gave us a very nice tea set as a gift, and treated us to dinner at a very classy Hong Kong style restaurant. We brought the wine, which we had acquired at the Wine China Exhibition on Tuesday. The meal included a rich mushroom soup, made with lots of different types of mushrooms in a delicious broth, and roasted pigeon, which was a specialty of the house. It’s hard to imagine finding pigeon on an American restaurant menu, but it is surprisingly common here in China. It was not bad, but I can’t see myself rushing out to try it again.

Bing is a successful author and illustrator who has recently published her 10th book. She showed us a copy, which was very beautiful and full of impressive artwork. Fang works for Canon and speaks perfect Japanese.

Fang and her boyfriend are avid cyclists, and like to stay in shape by riding around the Chinese countryside. Fang’s boyfriend showed up to the meal very late, after we had almost finished eating. He had been held up at work. It turns out that he is a software engineer like myself, and in fact has worked with some of the same technologies that I have, which gave us something to talk about. His English was surprisingly good, though he talked so softly that it was hard to hear him over the noise of the restaurant.

Scalloped Doorway

Imprisoned 3

Imprisoned 4

Space Zero

798-V1

798-V2

798-V3

798-V4

798-V5

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