The Beijing Art Zone That Is Less Traveled – Caochangdi
Caochangdi is a sleepy village located just outside the northeast Fifth Ring Road of Beijing. With art galleries, several art studios, and creative organizations at Caochangdi, art lovers can find everything from traditional art to contemporary, including painting, sculpture, photography, and mixed media.
The Start Of The Art Zone
It was in 1999 when Chinese artists Ai Weiwei built a studio in Caochangdi that everything started to change in the village. The studio that Ai Weiwei built was created with the most ordinary grey bricks and common building methods. The result was a factory-style space which the artist called Caochangdi 258.
Ai Weiwei had no way of knowing that this creation would inspire a number of other artists to follow him to this sleepy village. Building on from the initial studio, Ai Weiwei was considered an architect for the cluster of compounds that he designed. There are a number of copies of this dotted around the village today which makes it very different to the other suburbs that surround Beijing.
The Less Traveled Road
When looking at the location of Caochangdi, you will notice that it is less than 4 kilometers from the famous 798 Art District. This might make you wonder why more tourists are not including Caochangdi in their circuit of Beijing. The primary reason for this is the fact that the village is not as convenient to get to as the 798 Art District. However, if you are in Beijing, you should take the time to visit this village for the thriving art community that it houses.
To get to the village, you will not be able to take the subway because there are no stations close by. You could take a taxi, but this will often take 30 minutes and not all of the taxi drivers know where the village is. A cheaper and more scenic option will be to take one of the many buses from the city and get off at the village stops.
What To See
Caochangdi has a lot to offer and you should take a few hours to view everything. The first place to stop will be the Three Shadow Photography Art Center. This center is located just 300 meters from the main gallery area and is the first private art gallery in the village to focus solely on photography.
From there, you should cross Nangao Lu and walk around 200 meters until you see a big sign that states Caochangdi. From this sign, you turn left and walk into a side street where you will see a big grey building. This will be part of a massive compound which was founded by Rong Rong and his wife Inri in 2007. There is a gallery with a public experimental exhibition and the second floor houses a library which is full of books, most of which are in English.
Another part of the village that you have to see is the Chambers Fine Art. This contemporary art gallery was named after the British architect William Chambers and houses work by many Chinese artists. The exhibitions in this gallery do change so you might want to find out more before you visit.