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Culture+Travel – Beijing

Culture+Travel – Beijing
The 6th Beijing International Art Biennial

Beijing can easily overwhelm those unfamiliar with the scale of Asia’s megacities. Yet its overcast skies and choking smog do little to detract from its cultural cachet. On the occasion of the 6th Beijing International Art Biennial, at the National Art Museum of China from September 24 through October 16, Art+Auction sought travel tips from Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art.


Among the spate of new art museums to open in Beijing is the Beijing Minsheng, a silverywhite edifice designed by Studio Pei-Zhu. It opened in late June and is, for now, the country’s largest private art museum. Running through October 10 is “Power of the Masses,” a historically oriented survey that examines how the influence of popular culture throughout the 20th century is manifest in the work of artists like

Liu Wei, Chen Chieh-Jen, and Yang Shaobin. BUILDING F, NO. 570

WEST HUAIHAI ROAD 8621-6282-8729

Another relative newcomer, launched in 2014 as a commercial gallery and located just to the west of the Worker’s Gymnasium, is Ginkgo Space, headed by director Jiang Wei, former senior vice president of Running September 19 through October 18, “Looking for Now” is a solo exhibition of works by the Düsseldorf-based painter Chen Ruo Bing. NO. 40, XINZHONG JIE DONGCHENG DISTRICT 8610-8579-4800

At the UCCA through October 19, a solo show of works by Korakrit Arunanondchai showcases the diversity of a practice spanning video, installation, painting, and performance. In the past, the artist has taken denim as a starting point for an exploration into the globalization of consumer trends, manufacturing, and pop culture; his more recent

output fuses fictional narrative with personal anecdote in order to probe universal concepts of death, rebirth, and purgatory. 798 ART DISTRICT, NO. 4 JIUXIANQIAO ROAD CHAOYANG DISTRICT 8610-5780-0200


Tinari recommends several well-designed properties with an art slant, including the hotel East, managed by Swire Hotels. “East has transformed the area where I work,” he says. “A few minutes south of the

Beijing 798 Art Zone, it brings the Swire polish to a postindustrial neighborhood. Xian, the massive bar on the hotel’s ground floor, has been the site of too many UCCA after-parties to count. Despite the Australian cover band, it remains the art world’s watering hole of choice.” NO. 22 JIUXIANQIAO ROAD CHAOYANG DISTRICT


Alternatively, bed down at the W Beijing Chang’an, which opened in April near the highend diplomatic area, a short distance from the main Beijing train station and Tiananmen Square. Designed by RTKL and the Hong Kong–based firm AB Concept, the hotel takes its aesthetic cues from historic circle-in-a-square motifs found in the Forbidden City and in the Temple of Heaven, as well as in Ming Dynasty vase patterns. While

Chinese luxury hotels have a reputation for stepping up the glitz to uncomfortably gaudy levels, the W Beijing Chang’an keeps the glitter under control, deploying gold touches with whimsy and remarkable restraint. NO. 2 JIANGUOMENNAN AVENUE 8610-6515-8855

For those who prefer to be a bit closer to the center of town, Tinari endorses the Rosewood Beijing, opened late last year by the family of Hong Kong art patron Adrian Cheng “in a skyscraper that they first built on the East Third Ring in the 1990s. Now that it’s officially up and running, one can delight in its intelligently lit interiors, generous meeting rooms, and smart restaurants. Country Kitchen, which serves gentrified down-home northern Chinese and Sichuan fare, is quickly becoming a favorite.” JING GUANG CENTRE HUJIALOU CHAOYANG DISTRICT 8610-6597-8888


Seasoned travellers who enjoy visiting gourmet restaurants housed in refurbished historical properties and other stand-alone buildings should be prepared to make certain concessions in Beijing. “One specialty of Beijing is great restaurants inside shopping malls,” Tinari notes. “This is sometimes hard for out-of-towners to accept, but it can be a conceptual leap worth making. Transit, a venerable neo-Sichuan establishment, is one reason to make it. On the top floor of the fashion mecca, Taikoo Li

Sanlitun North, it serves up some of the most intelligent spice in town.

Its attached lounge, Cicada, is a great place for a postprandial.” N4-36, THIRD FLOOR, TAIKOO LI NORTH 11 SANLITUN ROAD CHAOYANG DISTRICT 8610-6417-9090 

In the same area is Middle 8th, a Yunnan restaurant whose provincial cuisine, still relatively unknown outside China, is “full of cured meats, cheeses, jasmine flowers, fish, and mushrooms.” SANLITUN ZHONGJIE


But one outstanding restaurant that does cater to expectations of quality cuisine served against a backdrop of dramatic architecture is Temple Restaurant Beijing. “Buried in a hutong just north of the Forbidden City is an unforgettable dining experience. Western cuisine is presented in a quintessential Beijing environment. The Yuan Dynasty complex evinces its 700-year history. Among its markings are Maoist slogans visible on the crossbeams in the main temple hall, where special events are often held.” 23 SHATAN BEIJIE (OFF WUSI DAJIE) DONGCHENG DISTRICT 8610-8400-2232