There is a place in China fully devoted to creation. The 798 art zone in Beijing.
798 (pronounce ‘qi jiu ba‘) is a Melburnian (North) fantasy come true, with:
red public art (a lego Venus de Milo)
playful political posters on animal rights
red public art (caged dinosaurs)
pointless cute shops
and expensive cafes (with graffiti view)
798 is an expression of Beijing’s secondary function. Apart from being China’s political and administrative capital, it is also the country’s cultural capital. Only Chinese city (Hong Kong excepted) where services clearly dominate industry, Beijing is the place to be for film-makers, designers and IT start ups.
Here’s a Beijing creative story: a friend went to Paris to study fashion, then moved back to Beijing. She found a job as a stylist in one of these new Chinese brands who try to replace the old ‘made in China’ label with posher ‘created in China’. She works in the team of a French stylist (ex- from Chanel), drawing fabric patterns for clothes. Once in a while, she flies to inner Mongolia, where the fabric factories are), to bring in new patterns and check the quality. Then, she rushes to SanLiTun or 798 for a bitch about backward Inner Mongolia with her fashion buddies, around a foccaccia and smoothie.
Sure sign that 798 is the creative place to be, a friend said about it: ‘it used to be really cool, but it’s too commercial now’. The radicals are gone, or they stay quiet. The creative class has taken over.