Beijing Art Guide

Contemporary art sprung up in many cities after China's reform and opening in 1979, but Beijing quickly emerged as the most dynamic. Pioneering exhibitions by artists and collectives such as the Stars Art Group helped establish the city's reputation for an energetic art scene that drew in artists from around the country and then collectors from abroad. Now, with the art market thriving in Shanghai, Beijing is no longer the uncontested home of Mainland Chinese contemporary art, but its galleries and museums continue to put on some of the best exhibitions in the country.

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The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) has long anchored Beijing's art scene with important retrospectives and surveys, such as Bao Dong and Sun Dongdong's ON / OFF (2013), an authoritative overview of Chinese artists born after 1975. After the museum's original owners withdrew funding, the UCCA's future looked doubtful, but director Philip Tinari cobbled together financing to ensure it endures at the heart of the 798 Art District in the northeast of the capital.

Many of Beijing's leading galleries can also be found in 798, including Beijing Commune, Boers Li, Galerie Urs Meile, Long March Space, Magician Space, Tabula Rasa Gallery, PIFO Gallery, the Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Platform China, and Tang Contemporary Art. There are also a number of important and engaging art spaces, including private institutions M WOODS and the Faurschou Foundation.

Many more of the top galleries are located just a short drive further northeast in Caochangdi, and while some have been evicted by the state, Chambers Fine Art, INK Studio, White Space Beijing, and ShanghART Beijing still remain for the moment. The 20,000-square-metre Red Brick Art Museum—founded by Yan Shijie and Cao Mei in 2014—is also located in the northeast of the city.

Between them, 798 and Caochangdi host Gallery Weekend Beijing each March, prior to Art Basel in Hong Kong. In 2019, the Beijing Art Summit was inaugurated to supplement galleries' exhibitions with a talks programme hosted by UCCA.

Other key galleries and institutions that warrant a special trip are largely to be found in the east of the city, including Aye Gallery in Dongcheng District and the China Academy of Fine Art (CAFA) Art Museum, the Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Vitamin Creative Space, Song Art Museum and OCAT Institute. Out west, another noteworthy nonprofit is Beijing Inside-Out Art Museum.

Among the most intriguing independent art spaces are The Bunker, which is both literally and figuratively underground, hutong storefront Arrow Factory and DRC No. 12, a scrappy little art space in a former Diplomatic Residential Compound, all of which are in Chaoyang District.

While Beijing has struggled to build an art fair to rival the likes of Art Basel in Hong Kong, JINGART—established by the co-founders of Shanghai's ART021—is starting to get some buzz after its inaugural year in 2018, filling out the calendar alongside Beijing Contemporary and Art Beijing.

Current Exhibitions In Beijing

View All Past Exhibitions (192)
Contemporary art exhibition, AES+F, What Came to Pass at Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing
20 May–30 June 2020 AES+F What Came to Pass Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing
Contemporary art exhibition, Zhao Zhao, White at Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing
20 May–30 June 2020 Zhao Zhao White Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing 2nd Space
Contemporary art exhibition, Li Yushuang, Li Yushuang Solo Exhibition at Asia Art Center, Beijing
16 May–5 July 2020 Li Yushuang Li Yushuang Solo Exhibition Asia Art Center, Beijing
Contemporary art exhibition, Qiu Shihua, Empty / Not Empty at Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing
28 March–31 May 2020 Qiu Shihua Empty / Not Empty Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing

Ocula Member Galleries In Beijing

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Contemporary Institutions In Beijing

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Beijing In Ocula Magazine

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Gallery Weekend Beijing: Exhibition Lowdown Ocula Report Gallery Weekend Beijing: Exhibition Lowdown By Tessa Moldan, Beijing

Between 22 and 31 May, Gallery Weekend Beijing returns for its fourth edition across 798 Art District. This lowdown provides a selection of exhibitions to catch as spring turns to summer in the capital.

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Chinese Art World Begins Tentative Return After COVID-19 Peak Ocula News Chinese Art World Begins Tentative Return After COVID-19 Peak Beijing, 3 April 2020

Art galleries and museums have made careful moves towards resuming normal operations following what is reportedly the worst of the COVID-19 epidemic in China.

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Art Basel Launches Online Showrooms After Cancelling HK Show Ocula News Art Basel Launches Online Showrooms After Cancelling HK Show Hong Kong, 21 February 2020

With tens of millions in China confined to their homes, galleries and institutions have likewise pivoted to online events.

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CAFA Museum's Tech Triennale Falls Victim to Virus Ocula News CAFA Museum's Tech Triennale Falls Victim to Virus Beijing, 31 January 2020

With more events being postponed and institutions closing their doors, Art Basel in Hong Kong is also under pressure to cancel.

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