Over the past 20 years, Chinese contemporary artists have risen to the stage of world’s art scene, and Beijing’s two most popular art districts—798 and Caochangdi, with their world-famous galleries and art studios—have become hot spots for critics and art enthusiasts. The Beijing scene provides a platform for emerging foreign artists as well; it is a breeding ground to experiment with new media and materials, with creative possibilities almost boundless due to access to a wide array of materials, craftsmen, workshops, and endless opportunities to showcase artworks to a broader audience. Artist-in-residence programs for foreigners are also aplenty—offering a chance to be immersed in the hosting country, and absorb its true vibe.
One immersion into Beijing’s lively hutong life is offered by I:Project Space, a non-profit independent platform for art, located in an old alley in the heart of the city. I:Project Space challenges the commercial machine, offering young artists a place for experimenting, without participating in the selling process of artworks. The space opened less than a year ago by Germans Anna-Viktoria Eschbach and Antoine Angerer.
Eschbach is an independent curator and art critic who has collaborated with several important art institutions; Angerer holds a master in Sinology, Art History and East Asian Art History. After their master studies they teamed up and came to Beijing with the idea to open an independent art gallery and launch their own artist-in-residence program. After a long search they found the perfect spot in an old courtyard house—a place where art could actively converse with society and its changes.
Eschbach and Angerer hope it’s a place young artists can truly experience life in a Chinese community, living closely with all the people that animate the area—from old men gathering to play chess on the street to Uyghur vendors selling lamb skewers on the street. In such an environment, Eschbach and Angerer immediately won over their neighbors, who enthusiastically welcomed all their public events, providing help and becoming (informally) an important part of the residency experience.
During a recent residency, Zurich-based photographer Michael Bodenmann spent three months wandering around the area, exploring, taking pictures and focusing on the utopian concept of how you build your own environment. The result is an exhibition called “On the bright side there is color”—created in collaboration with Swiss artist Jiajia Zhang.
The next residency will last until April, closing with an exhibition by German artist Daniel Stubenvoll. Interested artists can apply for a 2-3 month residency, with studio and accommodations provided, online. I:Project Space is open by appointment.