Three years ago, experimental Chinese photographer Rong Rong had more photography books than he knew what to do with. Together with his wife, Japanese photographer Inri, he decided to share his collection with the public. The couple began to look for a building in which to house a library, but when they discussed the idea with their friend, the conceptual artist and architect Ai Weiwei, it occurred to them that they could do more. Why stop at a library? Why not create the first contemporary-art center in China to specialize exclusively in photography and video art?
So the idea for the Three Shadows Photography Art Center, www.threeshadows.cn, was born. Opened last June in Beijing's eastern suburbs, the 49,500-sq.-ft. (4,600 sq m) complex features a 14,000-sq.-ft. (1,300 sq m) exhibition hall designed by Ai Weiwei, housing galleries, a library, a video-editing and production center and darkrooms. A separate multimedia building is used for film screenings and lectures. Rong Rong and Inri currently intend to host four to five major shows a year. There are also plans for artist residencies, grants for young photographers and overseas exchange programs. "The concept will mature slowly, like an artwork," says Inri, who hopes that once it comes to full fruition, its founders can return to focusing on their own art. Rong Rong agrees. "It's our baby," he says, laughing. "We want it to grow up and become independent."
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