space by space, shenzhen is transforming its industrial self. at the same time that tianmian is remaking its factories into design studios, overseas chinese town (oct) is transforming its factories into a more explicitly bohemian art space. those factories that aren’t being transformed, are being razed to make way for upscale residential areas. gentrification in a generation, before anyone had time to grow up in an industrial city and miss anything about it.
this weekend, i visited oct loft (one year anniversary web release here) this weekend. the area is still under construction, but tea houses, restaurants, studios, and the contemporary art center have opened. along with he xiangning museum of art, the art center is holdoing a month-long exhibit called “abstraction is an expression of freedom (抽象是一种关于自由的表达).” the exhibit will tour hong kong, beijing, and then new york. art center’s director huang zhuan provides an explanation of their inspiration, here. as at the open ink painting, there’s an urge to make china’s past contemporary.
two details struck me about the space. first, like tianmian, oct loft’s industrial facelift entails replacing cement walls with glass. so the structure of the buildings remain, but now its all shiny and exposed. lots of black as well. second, the quality of the exhibition suggests an anti-dafen village moment. indeed, when i met several of the young men involved in getting this project up and going, one was vehement about separating what he was doing from dafen. such are the debates over “professional” versus “commercial” art in shenzhen, itself a telling distinction.
take a walk through OCT loft and compare with transformations in tianmian.