With an array of aesthetically-instructed sup spots and design savvy stays now rounding out her well-established contempo art scene, the Chinese capital is truly a must for all-round art-ficionados.
Bertolucci’s sweeping vision of rouge-saturated splendour and gilt-burnished pomp may have been replaced by a thick fog of pollution, scurrying masked hoards and grinding traffic, but don’t let that put you off. Maomaoland still has plenty of spangles to keep you smiling from her cutting edge contempo art scene to equally creative culinary hotspots and top local craft. So, get to it, sm-arty pants…
First off, you’ll need somewhere to rest that lovely nogan. Gunning for that Last Emperor opulence? Look no further than the secluded Aman Summer Palace, a mere 60 minutes scoot from the city. This Ming marvel, set across the former cooking quarters of Yiheyuan palace, offers trad-meets-tech pavilions, each tastefully done out in muted creams, wooden beams and rich Oriental latticework.
For a more modern vibe and central locale, bed down at Hotel Éclat, Beijing’s utterly OTT ode to the Louvre pyramid, just east of Tiananmen in hip-happening Chaoyang. This bonkers five-star bower, perched atop retail romp Parkview Green, is stuffed to the rafters with eye-popping art (from the likes of Andy Warhol, Shen Jingdong and Gao Xiaowu), as well as private pool-and-indoor-terrace suites.
The capital’s most famous creative hub, 798 Art District (or Dashanzi), is an electrifying East Berlin-inspired, Soviet-funded, former military factory turned hotbed of commercial arts, just avoiding Mondays when most stuff shuts. Must visits include expertly curated non-profit Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) with exhibs, performances, workshops and a cracking souvenir pitstop UCCAStore; the trailblazing Long March Space; Tang Contemporary Art repping emerging talent; the stunning bauhaus 798 Space with original Mao slogans painted on the ceiling; and all-mediums Boers-Li Gallery.
The arty offerings at 798 could keep you occupied for days, but, if you’re really looking to expand your collection, nearby Caochangdi is where those in the know go to nab new finds by the Weiwei’s of tomorrow. Three Shadows Photography Art Centre has saucy snapshots inspired by the ICP in New York, as well as a cute caff for that all-important caffeine crank; Lucerne-bred Galerie Urs Meile works with the China Art Archives and Warehouse to showcase homegrown talent; and Pékin Fine Arts is Meg Maggio’s marv 600sqm space showcasing Asian art.
After some art of the wearable kind? Hit up Yin Shu + EA West for statement jewellery and locally designed duds, or Fei Space has an eclectic stash of threads and trinkets.
When the Beijing hustle n’ bustle becomes too much, nip to Green T House Living, a former teahouse and spa, now reborn as a serene and fantastical culinary retreat with waiters in period garb and a theatrical menu to match.
Or, for a set supper as painterly as the art you’ve been ogling, slink into inventive gastro temple, King’s Joy, where veg-whisperer Pan Jianjun’s organic wizardry will sate even the sanguineous carnies.
Aman Summer Palace, 1 Gongmenqian Jie, Haidian. +86 10 5987 9999, aman.com
Hotel Éclat, 9 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang. +86 10 8561 2888, eclathotels.com
UCCA, 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang. +86 10 5780 0200, ucca.org.cn
UCCAStore, see above. +86 10 5780 0224, ucca.org.cn
Long March Space, 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang. +86 10 5978 9768, longmarchspace.com
Tang Contemporary Art, 798 Art District, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang. +86 10 5978 9610, tangcontemporary.com
798 Space, 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang. +86 10 5978 9181
Boers-Li Gallery, 798 Art District , 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang, +86 10 6432 2620, boersligallery.com
Three Shadows, 155a Caochangdi Art Village, Chaoyang. +86 10 6432 2663, threeshadows.cn
Galerie Urs Meile, 104 Caochangdi Art Village, Chaoyang. +86 10 6433 3393, galerieursmeile.com
Pékin Fine Arts, 241 Caochangdi Art Village, Chaoyang. +86 10 5127 3220, pekinfinearts.com
Yin Shu + EA West, 798 Art District, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang. +86 10 8459 9517, yinshu.org
Fei Space, 2/F, 798 Art District, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang. +86 10 5978 9580
Green T House Living, 318 Cuigezhuang Xiang, Hegezhuang Cun. +86 10 6434 2519, green-t-house.com
King’s Joy, 2 Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng. +86 10 8404 9191, facebook.com/kingsjoybeijing
For more sm-art Beijing finds nab a copy of the LUXE Beijing guide…