Gallery Weekend Beijing heralds return of China's cultural scene

By Jay Birbeck and Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 26, 2020
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Gallery Weekend Beijing returns to Beijing's 798 art district for the fourth time after months of postponement due to the COVID-19 epidemic. [Photo by Wu Jin/]

While China's political advisors gather in Beijing for China's annual two sessions, the city is also hosting Gallery Weekend Beijing (GWBJ) at Beijing's 798 art district. The fourth edition of GWBJ, running between May 22 and 31, signals the return of the Beijing art scene. 

The week-long celebration brings together over twenty-two local galleries and institutions boasting works from renowned Chinese artists as well as newcomers. This year's line-up is jam-packed with exhibitions, public art installations, performances, talks and events.

The festival takes place at Beijing's 798 art zone, around 30 minutes from the city center. The district boasts a thriving community of artists, galleries, boutique stores, and street art. The site is home to some of Beijing's prominent galleries and museums, including the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and M WOODS Museum.

Although the art expo is returning, the pandemic means this year is a slightly smaller affair than usual. No overseas galleries or prominent curators are taking part. Despite this, the fact that the event is taking place at all signals hope for art scenes around the world currently waiting to reopen. In addition, the expo has expanded its online content for international audiences who cannot attend.

Zhang Hanlu, the curator of the Gallery Weekend Beijing, said that the theme of this year's exhibitions is "the search for the sacred and mythical." She describes it as a process to establish interconnections with all things in the universe and an attempt to acknowledge the meaning of human existence.

The exhibition entitled "Meditations in an Emergency" brings together over 26 Chinese and international artists to reflect on the role of art in a time of crisis. [Photo by Wu Jin/]

These themes are powerfully reflected in UCCA's "Meditations in an Emergency." The exhibition brings together over 26 Chinese and international artists to reflect on the role of art in a time of crisis and looks to art as a source of consolation, contemplation, and global unity. In the wake of the pandemic, the exhibition feels both timely and important.  

Over at the Tang Contemporary Art gallery, visitors can get lost in a labyrinth made entirely of cotton. The cotton maze is part of a new exhibition called "White" by Xinjiang artist Zhao Zhao.

"The texture of cotton is soft," said Cao Dingding, a media relations manager at the gallery. "However, today, with all cotton blocks encapsulated in one room, they don't evoke feelings of softness and lightness, but rather of overwhelming compression," she said.

Meanwhile, an exhibition at Pifo Gallery commemorates the late, outstanding British artist John Mclean, who passed away in June, last year, at the age of 80. It is Mclean's second solo exhibition at the gallery with over 29 pieces of colorful works on display.

"When Mclean got to know American abstraction, he was able to create unique connections between color-filled paintings and impressionism. It was also since then that he started to paint like this," said Wang Yuhan, a staff member of the gallery.

In Platform China Droom, a collection of paintings drawn by Chinese artist Bi Jianye, born in 1985 in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, explore the theme of "heroism." 

The exhibition contains a selection of highly detailed paintings created over the past five years. 

Gallery Weekend Beijing runs until May 31.

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