Art, Culture Industry and the Transformation of Songzhuang Artist Village

By Meiqin Wang.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The paper examines the formation and transformation of the Songzhuang Artist Village, a major contemporary artist community in Beijing’s eastern suburb, in the context of China’s opening to marketization and globalization. Emerged in the mid 1990s, the community had been an important site of contemporary art practice in China. Many independent artists chose to live in this place, experiencing a kind of self-imposed marginal existence, free from any official affiliation. In the eyes of the authorities, the unofficial presence of artists like these had been a potential threat to the stability of society. This hostile attitude, however, has changed dramatically since the beginning of the twenty-first century. Responding to the call of the Chinese central government to develop culture industry, the local authority of Songzhuang has come to see the artist community as a valuable resource for developing local economy. With its support, the development of Songzhuang Artist Village has been rapid. In a couple of years, this former rural village has become a growing national and global center for contemporary art. Galleries, artist studios, museums have been built; housing complexes, restaurants, and other facility spaces have been constructed; and regular art festivals and exhibitions have been organized. These new developments demonstrate the changing official perception about art and culture in China; in the meantime, they are also the marks of the rapid institutionalization and commercialization of this former autonomous artist community.

Keywords: SongZhuang Artist Village, Alternative, Mainstream, Contemporary Chinese Art, Globalization, International Exhibitions, Independent Curators, Market Economy, Culture Industry

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.187-206. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 19.496MB).

Meiqin Wang

Assistant Professor, Art Department, California State University Northridge, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Meiqin Wang, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Asian art history at California State University Northridge specializing in modern and contemporary Chinese art. Her research interests also include contemporary art of the Asian world and international exhibitions. Her dissertation and published materials focus on the recent developments of contemporary art from China and their social, political, economic, and institutional implications in the context of globalization. She received her B.F.A. in art education and painting from the Fujian Teacher’s University in Fuzhou and her master’s degree in art history from the China Academy of Arts in Beijing. She received her doctorate degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton.


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