Our time in Beijing this trip was replete with social engagements. These centered upon Blackbridge ( 黑桥) district, where Zhong Biao’s studio stands as the first installation going back to 2005. Since then, roughly 400 artists have moved into the area, making for a vibrant social scene to go along with the already well-developed arts center at 798 roughly 5 kilometers away. Despite this vibrancy, Blackbridge is slated for destruction in the next two years, something that will result in extraordinary level of wasted resources and a grand shuffle of the artists currently residing there. Some photographs:
There seems to be no chance that the impending destruction will be canceled. The reason, quite simply, is that this area was never zoned for such living spaces to begin with. Indeed, it is not at all clear that the authorities would refuse to grant permits for such an art district. Among other things, it provides, at least for the moment, a very successful economy, with local and foreign investment and a wide array of jobs ranging from the high tech to the entirely unskilled. Even so, it would be necessary to completely destroy all of the un-permitted building before this could happen, which is something the artists themselves are not likely to accept (they’d likely rather leave and rebuild elsewhere, if rebuilding is a requirement).
The appeal of Blackbridge, meanwhile, is that it is perfectly situated close to 798 art district, which is now a major center of contemporary art globally speaking, but not so close that the daily dose of gallery openings, concerts, and even corporate shows (with major car manufacturers, for instance, choosing 798 as launching pad for new products) that actually producing art becomes an impossibility. The lack of government oversight is another appealing attribute, and the single greatest reason behind the thriving social scene that Blackbridge is becoming. All of this will come to an end soon enough, though, at which point another boom in creative building in some as yet undeveloped land not far from Blackbridge will no doubt be underway.