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Take your Art and Shove it…


Amidst the advertisements for Yves Saint Lauren handbags, flippant articles about how irony has become utterly passé and a great variety of declarations on the increasing profitability of collecting art in unexpected countries. The September 2010 issue of the Art Review magazine features an article about the emerging art market in ‘New China’. The article deserves to be read in full with an irreverent smirk by all self respecting Hoxton residents, who are looking to be inspired by ‘real’ life and ‘real’ suffering, as experienced by people living in poor countries and consequently are forced to eat smelly cuisine.

Here is the first few paragraphs of the article. Which are incidentally adjacent to a sepia picture of Ai Wei Wei riding a fixie bike… Emphasis my own:

The Opposite House is, by a distance of many miles, the finest hotel I have ever stayed in. It is effortlessly minimalist, but not in a way that makes you feel you have wandered in off the street smeared in excrement. Every drawer has another lovely thing in it: scratched cotton bathrobes, bamboo combs, All the Plugs of the World including one that hooks up your iPhone to your cinema size TV. I think.

Then there are the presents. Each evening, you come home to find a little something in your suite, with what looks like a handwritten Post-it note stuck to it. I smudge one with a licked finger: it is handwritten. On Monday there are vintage postcards, on Tuesday a jellied facemask, which applied for 20 minutes, leaves you looking like Joan Rivers. I imagine a small person in a faraway room whose sole job it is to think up gewgaws for Opposite House guests and stick notes to them. On my las evening I hurry home to find the not stuck to the book I have been reading. It apologises for removing the boarding pass marking my page and replacing it, my trembling fingers discover, with a silver-thin fillet of sandalwood. it seems that the faraway person shops for each of us individually. Things start to get creepy.

Ah, yes: art. If The Opposite House is New China, then what is happening across town, in Caochangdi, on Beijing’s Fifth Ring Road, is pretty much Old China. Ten years and the city’s contemporary artists, lately evicted from the inner suburb of Yanmingyuan to a very, very outer suburb in Tongzhou, colonised a 1950’s industrial complex called Dashanzi or, less poetically, Joint Factory 718….

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