Phenomenology is the new black

Bike ride to Caochangdi

Those intrepid artists strode off on their trusty Red Gate bicycles for the journey from Bei Gao studios to Caochangdi Art District home to a wealth of galleries hosting the cream of Beijing’s elite artists.

We cautiously manoeuvred our bikes around building construction sites, cavernous roads, people, other cyclists and vehicles all wending their way through outer Beijing. We zip past daily life in the villages where stalls are covered in fruit and produce, taxi garages, rubbish, parks and the incessant stream of traffic buzzing in all directions. With maps and good intentions we pedaled away feeling the freedom of movement, the wind whirring past our ears and the joy of being out amongst the elements.  And boy was it hot!

We started our art viewing with our first port of call:

image of three shadows gallery

Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Sentimental Journey/Decadence in Paradise 1973-20 – Nobuyoshi Araki

I felt the exhibition was “overshadowed” by the impressive gallery space – huge by any stretch of the imagination. The b/w photography is well positioned in this space but the subject matter really didn’t do much for me – perhaps too Japanese – I don’t know – disappointing.

image of interior of Three Shadows Art Centre

Interior shot of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

This is the sort of gallery a photographer would give blood to exhibit in – for sheer space it is superb!

image of text of exhibition

text of exhibition


image of interior

hanging b/w

Great way of displaying photography unfortunately my shot does not really give one an idea of how good it looks

image looking across the courtyard

view across the courtyard to Three Shadows Art Centre Complex

The art complex – cube like – brick construction with brick paved courtyards and walls mimicking the old Ming Wall from the City. Splashes of green trees soften what could have been described as a stark construction but all the same it is so close to the hustle bustle that is so dominant in Beijing that it is a little oasis of calm and beauty. There is also a well stocked bookstore and coffee stop – great place.

Back on the bikes and round the corner to about 4 other galleries  – nothing really jumped out and grabbed me but some marble sculptures were interesting plus a quick look at a Canadian/Chinese Installation at  Where Where Art Space – 319-1 East End Art Zone – run by Canadian Gordon Laurin.

The Gallery also runs an artist residency for one artist who may want to exhibit there and/ or research works whilst in residence.

marble statue

marble statue


image of marble statue

marble statue 2

love this!

image of marble statue 3

marble statue 3

great buns!

Opposite Where Where Gallery was another fantastic space where the works of Bi Jianye  were on full display. Chinese or Beijing artists favour huge canvases and these magnificent galleries can accommodate large works which are beautifully hung and give the viewer the best possible advantage of enjoying the works or not! I was not taken by these works in particular but maybe that is a little bit of envy – the space is over two floors, concrete floors and huge staircase all painted white – a fantastic canvas to showcase any work good or bad!

image of interior of gallery

Gallery interior


image of works

From here we gathered our bikes and headed off into the hot midday sun – we sped off to the next section of Caochangdi which I believe was designed by international architects and the renown artist Ai Wei Wei – very subtle artist hubs set in amongst the hutongs (little villages) without a map it is hard to locate these vestibules of culture.

We cycle into Galerie Ursmeile of Lucerne Switzerland and Beijing –      

no 104 Caochangdi, Chaoyang District    

image of artwork


This piece is made up of 4 canvases and is huge – average canvas @ 150 x 150+

image of canvas


Another beautifully designed artspace that again pampers the artist and their work – cool cubes of white, concrete and steel make a great background to Li Dafang’s exhibition – here definitely less is more – the works are enormous but in this space generously proportioned and great to gaze at in awe. The Chinese really adore paintings and these I am sure do not disappoint – for me I am not so sure.  Again, one has to remember that as a westerner one has seen so much in so many countries as well as the classics and I do think with China one has to leave behind that attitude and try to understand ‘their’ background and education – The Chinese are not interested in ‘the other’ as in western art they have their own identity and it is now evolving through travel, literature and the web – what isn’t censored – they are inquisitive but also quite complacent in their own world –

image of restaurant


Josie directed us – out of the blue – to this delightful tiny restaurant in the hutongs – lunch was as you would expect, delicious and horribly inexpensive. Wonderful to be sitting on comfy chairs whilst the cooks rustled up a storm in the kitchen – it actually sounded like he was using a blow-torch!! Good to be out of the stifling heat.

image of interior of Fodder Factory

Fodder Factory


image of interior of Fodder Factory

Fodder Factory interior

The most exciting and different show was the Korean Artists Exhibition at Mizuma + One Gallery

Another huge complex on two floors showcasing diverse works – film, paintings, sculpture and installations.

image of didactic



image of works



Kwon Ki-Soo

Kwon Ki-Soon  Listen to the sound of the Moon in the Moonlight   230 x 145cm       ac on canvas

Apparently well-known in his native Korea – quite joyful paintings with an element of humour – much-needed!

Cycling ever forwards we find C-Space, Red No. 1 – C1 & C2  Caochangdi – the work of French artist Eltono1/1 Project

image of work by Eltono


An exhibition where the artist has put together a project to bring contemporary art to the streets and the streets/village into the gallery – He so named the project 1/1 to document the dialogue between the exhibition space and the streets beyond.    Here he brings the local Caochangdi village into the gallery whilst it also immersed, snugly around the galleries by way of location and geography – instead of excluding he includes – with his proposal of going into the village locating and choosing doors that appealed and then adding his signature artwork – door appropriation – enough to make any villager smile – he then photographed each new stylised door, had them reproduced via life-size photographs and then installed them into the gallery – great! Hereby creating an exchange between two groups – the villagers and the art community – the residents of the village get a kick out of seeing their front doors displayed in a prominent gallery and the art community can see both the exhibits and wander through the village and see the original doors in situ – such a great idea – the works – few and uncluttered – featured well against the sternness of the huge gallery. Très bon Monsieur Eltono!!

image of doors

Eltono Doors


image of doors

Eltono doors

Long day but worth every minute seeing what this amazing art district has to offer and also to enjoy the benefits of cycling from one gallery to another – most relaxing!






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