From September 27 to October 26, UCCA presents “History in the Making,” an ensemble of exhibitions, performances, and conversations occurring within 798 Art District, and open to the public. As one of the most important events of 798’s calendar, this year’s 798 Art Festival focuses on commemorating the 40 years of history since China’s Reform and Opening Up, and 60 years of history since Chaoyang District’s construction, giving a sense of the development of China’s contemporary art, and showcasing the unique flavors of Beijing and Chaoyang.
Throughout the course of human history, changes in social relations, media, technology correspond not only to changes to human thought, but reflect improvements in socio-economic production and changes to out spiritual demands. Ever since the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party, China’s economic reforms have forever altered the country. This is reflected not only in the massive growth of its economy, and the marked increase of quality of life for most of its residents, but also catylized the growth of China’s art and culture. The reforms advocated intellectual liberation, and China’s contemporary art is one remarkable result of these policies—both a metonym for social development, and a demonstration of its cultural theory and practice—showing the new face of China’s vibrant new culture and social spirit.
Since 1978, China’s contemporary art’s intellectual liberation has been proceeding. Artistic institutions, independent curators, art collectives, news institutions, and art workers themselves, have all inherited this spirit of progress and reflection. At the same time, a series of monumental events that altered Chinese society, and artistic exchange projects organized by the Ministry of Culture, have also sped up the development of China’s art, with such movements as Scar Art, Wuming art, the cultural fever of the mid-eighties, and the rise of contemporary art institutions across China since 2008. In recent years, contemporary art institutions have become a mainstay for tourists to understand local culture, and for local residents to spend their leisure time.
798 Art District has an annual viewership of millions; its exhibitions have reached tens of millions of online viewers. As the main exhibition in the Art Festival, “History in the Making” will give a sense of the social, artistic, and transnational changes that have occurred in the last fourty years. It will include text, pictures, film, and archival material, including a readeing area, film materials area, and audioguides, helping visitors understand the Art District’s rich history.
China’s reforms have had a decisive impact on its last 40 years of history, and continue to affect its development. Art continues to reflect the depths of Chinese society; to give a sense of this society’s progress is one of the most urgent tasks of art workers today. This exhibition, the curatorial team has commissioned the artist, Wang Mai and the architect, Liang Chen, to contribute to the exhibition design, juxtaposing installation art that commemorates 798’s history with archival materials, taking viewers back in time. In the beginning of a new era, understanding history, and art history, has more significance than ever.
This exhibition is organized by 798 Art District Administrative Committee, and UCCA, Beijing. It is curated by You Yang; Peng Feng is the academic host, and Liang Chen, founder of Alephatlas, contributes exhibition design. Wang Mai is the guest artist, contributing exhibition design and designing installation artworks for the different exhibition areas. Action Media contributes film support to the exhibition, and BOE and Huawei are creative partners for the exhibition. Lan Space gives art installation support. Thanks go as well to Feng Boyi, Huang Rui, Lin Yilin, Colin Siyuan Chinnery, Wang Mai, Xu Bing, Yu Hong, the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, MadeIn Company, Times Museum, Luxelakes, A4 Art Musuem, Action Media, Gallery Weekend Beijing, for providing archival materials. Finally, thanks to UCCA’s project team.
Beijing’s 798 Art District is located in the Dashanzi area of Changyang District, enclosed by 718 Joint Factory, subsidiary of Seven Star China Electronic Group.It is adjacent to Beijing’s Airport Expressway, with a core area of 30,000 square meters. Formerly known as the 718 Joint Factory, it was one of the major construction projects of the first Five-Year Plan, designed by the German postwar successors to the Bauhaus. After it was decommissioned, it became a home to Beijing’s community of avant-garde artists, thus earning the name 798 Art District. 798’s success as an art destination has helped Beijing’s entire creative sector, setting an example for other creative institutions. Its name has become synonymous with Chinese contemporary art. 798 hosts world-class art exhibitions, as well as a host of other art and fashion events, attracting visitors from different backgrounds. Each year, over four million people travel to this destination, 30-40% of whom come from outside the country. Since 2004, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, and former Presidents of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Saramanch and Jacques Rogge, have all visited 798.
Beijing’s 798 Art Festival is one of the year’s most anticipated art events. It convenes leading scholars, artists, critics and curators from both China and abroad in a series of exhibitions and discussions, adding to China’s contemporary art conversation. It gives them the chance experience China’s vibrant art scene, and to engage in dialogue and exchange with one another. 798 Art Festival takes the entire Art District and presents it to the world, demonstrating the vibrancy of Chinese art.