The 798 is an interesting project for contemporary art & creation in China. Now a trendy place for young artists, designers, filmmakers to work in, with retaurants and cafes.
Why 798 ? I is the name of the factory complex that was once there, with a codename to avoid people to know what was being built in this model unit. The factory complex has been put forward by the Chinese leaders in the 1950s and 1960s with a orchestra, high level accomodation for workers. In the 1980s, with Chinese economy changing, the complex loses its prestige and quite radiply closes down.
Everything changed in the 1990, the Beijing artistic community was looking for a home, and they found one : the 798 ! Various Chinese artists, soon joined by foreign creators decided to live there and they created a place quite unique in the world of Chinese art, linked with the reputation of Beijing as a city of culture.
The place quicly became an artistic landmark with a worldwide reputation, its golden age being probably the 2000s, with exhibitions, people from all over the world coming in, the place was definitively the place for creation in Beijing.
Since then, it has changed a bit, there is a gentrification of the place, with less avant-garde artists and more restaurants. Still, the place is thriving and has more and more galleries opening in a welcoming environment. Oddly, the factory environment has been turned in a very charming area that contrasts with Beijing urbanism, like a safe haven in the large city always trying to impress with new heights.
This might be less and less a place for creation, but it is a place where artists meet, exchange in a friendly environment, exhibit their work and an interface with the world. So yes, you should go there and visit it, you won’t regret it, and you’ll leans tons of things about contemporary creation in China, get adresses and discuss the future. Everyone that has been these has loved it, the place is fun, open, welcoming.
Good place for nice restaurants and cafes as well, who would complain ?
A simple glance of the website show that the place has not lost its appeal, with a lot of activity, exhinition, cretaion. This is a place that is attractive to foreigners who have their apartment in the area, to have a nicer life in Beijing.