If it was once threatened by eager developers or suspicious officials, Beijing's 798 art district may now be falling prey to its own success. Thanks to a frenzied Chinese art market, 798 now caters to a set more interested in the scene than the art, which critics say has suffered.
But cultural restitution is in the air in the shape of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, ucca.org.cn, which hopes to bring Beijing's art scene back to its edgy roots. Founder Guy Ullens is Belgian and the lead curator is Frenchman Jerome Sans. But "This isn't about foreigners coming here and imposing things," Ullens says. "From the beginning the concept was to create a Chinese institution to inform and educate." The center appears to be doing just that. Its two halls currently host a Huang Yongping retrospective. The $4 admission fee expensive by local standards has prompted some to dispute the museum's underground credentials, but Sans is unfazed. "This isn't the end of the avant-garde, but, on the contrary, a chance to play it louder," he says. "It's like a guitar. If you play unplugged, of course it's very nice, but if you plug into your amp, you can reach everyone in the festival."
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