CITY GUIDE >Culture and Events
Goodbye to snobbery but how long will it last?
By Zhao Xu (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-04-10 09:40

Goodbye to snobbery but how long will it last?

By all signs, 798 Art District - the number refers to its 1950s central Bauhaus building - seems to have embarked on a "de-gentrification" process of its own. The wave of bourgeois bohemia, with its special mix of commerce, public spiritedness and urban snobbery, has been receding since late last year.

Boutique stores that sell "re-interpretative" Chinese fashion to foreign visitors have witnessed a drop in business. And since runway spectacles are no longer considered "essential" under the gloomy economic climate, D-Park, a design stronghold that opened in 798 in early 2007 and hosts the twice-yearly Beijing Fashion Week, had only 20 shows in March, compared with more than 50 last November.

If you listen to some people, however, like those who came to 798 early in the piece and who claim to have driven its transformation, this sudden reversal of fortunes had been anticipated, and welcomed.

"798 today is quite unlike when I first came," said Lu Jie, founder and director of Long March Space, which made 798 home back in 2002, when much of the site was still functioning as factory workshops.

The shrieking and hollering of machines may have been disruptive at times but Lu said artists generally lived in harmony with whatever remained of the fast-vanishing industrial era. Exhibited works often featured some of its longest residents - workers who saw the ongoing "encroachment" of their workplace with bewildered amusement.

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