March 22, 2011

Songzhuang Artists Village

As the less glamourous counterpart to Beijing's 798 Art District, the artsy community of Songzhuang has a more intimate feel. The laid back artists work where they live, readily inviting in curious guests to peruse their works. Situated within the eastern suburb of Tongzhou, Songzhuang Artists Village is Beijing's largest such creative community. Around 2000 artists practice their craft here. An annual festival brings in the crowds from the city, but we were among a handful of visitors on the day of our visit.

The people here also have an affinity for pets, with many cats and dogs lazing about. One puppy became excited upon seeing us. It lay on its back and nonchalantly peed on one of my fellow travelers. The rest of the people, locals and visitors alike, chuckled with delight. A group of friends and I were then led from one floor to the next of an apartment building, each door opening to reveal an artist within. It turned out that the lady who gave the tour was both the landlord and the marketing department for her talented tenants.

Some artists worked in larger warehouse type workshops, their messy beds and small kitchens visible in the small rooms attached to the sides of their studio. One was painting and noticed us peeking through his ground floor window. He immediately invited us in. Another studio had a collection of portraits of a handsome young man baring an uncanny resemblance with myself, right down to the sexy beard and trendsetting dress sense. It was a work of art.


“There is one thing one has to have: either a soul that is cheerful by nature, or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art, and knowledge.” - Friedrich Nietzsche