shangwei: the other artist village

Shenzhen has more art-adjacent villages than one might think. There’s Dafen, Aohu, Wutongshan, and Shangwei (上围). There’s also Baoyuan, which is not an art village per se but located next to the F518 space. So. You decide. 4? 5? Do we also include any of the villages that have veered into creative industries? Guimiao, the village next to Shenzhen University and now crumbling to the excavators of progress, for example, was once home to artists and bibliophiles. Anyway. Shangwei.

Getting to Shangwei still takes a bit of effort. A subway ride to the Huawei Station and then a 20-minute cab ride from Longgang west into Longhua. Indeed, Shangwei feels like many off-the-subwayed paths of Shenzhen. It is still industrial, traditional housing are towers are still squeezed between handshake buildings, and old paths have been overlaid with concrete and bricks, but they still wind through connected spaces. For people who don’t realize that electrification and public water are less than thirty years old, it feels almost rural, nestled tightly inside a long and narrow valley that hasn’t been straightened or flattened or remade in someone else’s image.

But not quite. Because Shangwei is relatively remote, artists have moved in, either by invitation (for the 2017 biennale) or because other art villages have become too expensive. There are small coffee shops and artisan workshops, high-concept businesses, rental apartments, and plants, so many plants that Shangwei embodies the idea of urban gardens. So images of a delightful walk through Shangwei, which is just disconnected enough to sustain an alternative, leisurely geography, while Huawei and other manufacturing workers are still able to take advantage of cheap (for Shenzhen) rentals.

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