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