In a country where censorship rules, few people gave the idea much of a chance. In little more than a decade, however, the 798 Art District, which occupies a former military zone on the northeastern edge of Beijing, has grown to become a genuine creative hub for contemporary art.
The story begins in the 1950s, when huge brick factories were thrown up around the Chinese capital to help satisfy the army’s growing demand for communications technologies. When manufacturing techniques moved on, these Bauhaus-style buildings were left abandoned.
By the early 2000s artists had moved in, attracted by low rents and the high-ceilinged spaces that gave them room to work on, and show off, their paintings and sculptures. With few other places for local artists to express themselves, and the empty factories effectively a blank canvas, news began to spread.