The 798 art district is China’s premiere art hub, and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art is its nerve center. Tucked in off the main street, three caged trademark tyrannosaurus rexes stand as the landmark which has come to represent not only the UCCA, but 798 itself.
Technically, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art is not an art gallery at all. It showcases art, but doesn’t sell it. This distinction actually allows for UCCA to take a unique approach towards art, where profit is not a focus. In fact, the art scene has always been a difficut market to make profits in so UCCA fortunately has the funding to promote art without considering whether it is saleable or not.
Many art installations (particularly large ones) are extremely difficult for private collectors to purchase, but UCCA takes its adopted role to push Beijing’s art scene forwards seriously, presenting new exhibits and experiences to audiences. Avant-garde artist Gu Dexin’s installations included meat and vegetables in their composition, giving pause to the temporal, while refusing to be art that seeks to be sold.
Easily one of the largest and best spaces for art in China, the UCCA’s 8000 square metres of space is divided into its main hall and three smaller halls.
The massive main hall has hosted intricately constructed environments ranging from disorienting fog and coloured-light filled spaces, to an ominous room filled with floating asteroid-like objects and explosive video installations.
Accordingly, the caliber of UCCA’s space is in step with that of the artists it showcases. Internationally acclaimed artists such as Olafur Eliason and Tatsuo Miyajima have stunned audiences with unexpected sensory experiences.
Of course Chinese artists have also used UCCA to explode upon the international scene. Yan Pei Ming exploited the main hall by installing a boomingly loud motor system on the ceiling which piped air down tubes blowing 34 flags of material. Each flag roughly portrayed a poverty-stricken child’s portrait.
Chinese artists have always held half of the spotlight at UCCA. Today, however, they have further honed their focus so that of the international artists they use, over half are from Asian countries.
In keeping with this, the current highly-anticipated exhibition, Indian Highway, showcases cutting edge work recently coming out of India. Many of the dominant themes in modern Indian art are analogous with those of China today. Rapid development, environmental decay, globalization and cultural shifts are all highlighted in a large variety of formats and styles. Indian Highway works as all metaphors do: helping us understand our own culture by examining a different one.
UCCA not only by showcases top quality art in a top facility, but also by educating the public via lectures, film screenings, performances and workshops. According to its website, over 140,000 people have attended UCCA’s varied activities.
Perhaps as popular as the exhibits is the UCCA store, on par with the art museum stores of other modern metropolises. Featuring specially commissioned and limited edition works, visitors can purchase reasonably priced art, fashion items, novelties and more by Chinese and international designers.
Address: UCCA, 798 Art District, No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District