What Will Happen to Caochangdi?
Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Chaochangdi art district, Beijing
At RedBox Review, Samantha Culp reports a disturbing development concerning the Chaochangdi art district in Beijing, home of such artists and filmmakers as Ai Weiwei, Wu Wenguang and Zhao Liang. Here is her report:
This past month, Beijing saw the launch of the first annual Caochangdi PhotoSpring – a festival based at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and comprising over two months of exhibitions and events at 27 galleries, with artists from around the world. Subtitled “Arles in Beijing,” PhotoSpring was created in partnership with the acclaimed Les Rencontres d’Arles festival of France, and seems to further strengthen Caochangdi’s position as an established art district in Beijing. Only a few days before the opening, however, Three Shadows and neighboring galleries had received yet another notice that their buildings were slated for demolition. Though rumors of Caochangdi’s imminent destruction have been circulating since June 2009, and though it seems most of the non-art businesses in the area have *not* received these latest notices, artists and gallerists were concerned enough to spring to action – including luminaries like Ai Weiwei, who has a studio in Caochangdi and personally designed several art spaces there. A petition is currently circulating through Beijing’s art community, and even its international diplomats, in the attempt to emphasize Caochangdi’s importance as a cultural site. Many are hoping that as with Dashanzi 798 Art District, which was set to be destroyed until the Beijing government realized its value as an art and tourist destination, Caochangdi might be similarly preserved. With the current campaign, as well as festivals like Caochangdi PhotoSpring and the recently-opened CCD Workstation May Festival (focused on film and dance), these hopes remain, but Caochangdi’s future is far from certain.