Hunting For Art In The Beijing Ghetto

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The day after the Popasuda party at Dada Beijing last month, my girl received an urgent mission – buy some art from up-and-coming Chinese painters and sculptors in the city. Sounded like a task from Elaine’s boss Mr. Peterson on Seinfeld so naturally we extended our stay in the Hanting Express, a rockstar hotel with an above-average 18RMB breakfast buffet. Toast.

After seeing the Duchamp exhibit and paintings by Wang Xingwei including his “Grandma In Window” series, we taxied deep into the hood to find some studios far from the comparatively pristine 798 Art Zone. Beijing cab drivers so chatty. The public toilets on this narrow street of rubble were just basins in an open room, not even squatters, and offered no indication that a studio with millions of RMB worth of art lay just around the corner.

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Old stairs led up into an aged warehouse where the affable Chen Xiaoyun (陈晓云) and Ye Linghan (叶凌瀚) showed us around the studio space they share with Jiangzhi (蒋志), who wasn’t present. Here’s a bit of what we saw:

Chen Xiaoyun’s pieces were the darkest of the three. Water, shapes, and creatures of the deep stared ominously from giant canvasses all around the room. I don’t know if having something like this is good for a home’s feng shui, but I dig it. Actually this guy primarily works in video.

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The youngest of the three, 叶凌瀚/ Ye Linghan makes some really dope videos with a  stop-motion hand-drawn/painted technique. The drawings feel almost like MC Escher at times and the animation is choppy but beautiful. Stills for videos were laying around the room, plus paintings like this.

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And finally, Jiangzhi, the most famous of the three, and probably my favorite overall. The big blue painting was inspired by computer viruses and how they can open up an infinite string of dialogue boxes to crash a system.

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Love the cover on this magazine. Reminds me of trying to draw in perspective, which I suck at. heatwolvesbeijingart6

And this – dude managed to paint what looks like still from a melted VHS tape. This one also by Jiangzhi.

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I have no idea where this studio was. Even if you dropped me off on the same street I couldn’t find it. Sometimes I get caught up in all the Shanghai bullshit and forget about what’s going on in the rest of China, or in scenes besides my own. Luckily in Beijing and Shanghai, as opposed to gritty American cities with art scenes like Detroit or Baltimore, you can actually walk around freely and without much worry. Gotta do that more.

Notes: I should point out that it’s not like we just stumbled upon this studio – my friend studied art in Hangzhou where these artists either studied or have connections. Also, no one has decided which work to buy yet. Finally, I’m not an art expert so please feel free to call out any inaccuracies in the comments!