Global MBA in China – Global Art at 798

I recently came back from a study trip in China, as part of my Global MBA studies at IDC in Hertzliya. Since I’m leaving for a personal vacation soon and my impression list is so long, I decided to share here one strong impression I had, just one of many. Finding one very strong impression to take away from such a powerful trip has been, to be honest, more painful than some of the spicy dishes I ate in China. It’s not often that one experiences such an intense 2 weeks, from a cultural, business-wise and social point of view. It will take quite long for it all to sink in.

I decided to focus on a few hours which I spent during our free day on Saturday – a visit to the 798 Art Zone (Dashanzi Art District) in the north-east part of Beijing. A 1950’s industrial area turned gallery district, this self-grown “underground” neighborhood was to me the face of the future of China, containing both the hope and the threat of freedom.

The first time I was introduced to Chinese art was at the 1999 Venice Biennale where I saw an exhibition dedicated to Asian art. I loved the humor and the strong connection to the history, coupled with the subtle hints to the political situation. Last month, when a good friend of mine who recently visited Beijing told me about the 798 zone, I had to visit it. A 45 minute taxi ride from our hotel, I discovered a maze of galleries, shops and cafés, all housed in old run-down factories. As with everything in China, the number of galleries was huge and one couldn’t visit them all in one day. It was like being in Chelsea in New York, only much more interesting.

The first thing that struck me was the fact that the art exhibited was from all parts of the world. Not only were there galleries focused on Chinese artists, but rather most galleries portrayed a mixture of internationally known artist together with younger Chinese ones. Much of the Chinese art was also very “western” with hints to the Chinese background and many references to western modern art.

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This art globalization is extremely important. The younger generation practicing art in China is growing into a global “free” environment where they are going outside of China to study and bringing their experiences back. Throughout history, art has always portrayed the hardships, challenges and hopes of the people. If this still stands, according to the atmosphere at 798 and the Chinese art I viewed there China today seems to be filled with hope. The fact that this entire zone grew as a sub-movement and didn’t receive any initial support from the government (although I imagine that like everything else in China it is receiving support today), goes to show that China today has no choice other than to open its doors.

Coupled with the growing internet usage in China, where any 10-year-old can use a proxy to access any website he wishes, China is headed for some kind of a change. The main question which was on my mind from my visit to 798 forward (other than when would I have a chance to go back…) was whether or not a more free society could continue to grow at such levels that China is growing today, and what will happen to the people, culture, and most important to the supposed current freedom, if it stops growing for some reason.

2 Responses to “Global MBA in China – Global Art at 798”
  1. Arf says:

    Didn’t know you had this going on!

    I dont remember my yahoo password and don’t look at that mail.

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