Last week, a gallery in Beijing’s alternative suburban arts district Caochangdi received a two week government eviction notice informing them they would have to vacate the premises by the end of the month. De Sarthe Gallery, the space originally set up in Paris in 1977, moved to the district in 2014 and is the latest to receive such an order after Galerie Urs Meile, the gallery synonymous with the works of formerly imprisoned Chinese polemic Ai Weiwei, received its notice in February 2017. The work of young Chinese artist Yak Ming Tung 2, who recently enjoyed her debut solo show with the gallery, will be the last work exhibited there.
The news comes almost exactly one year after the story of Iowa, the artist collective based in Caochangdi whose forcible removal from their domestic studio spaces by Chinese police was filmed by both Ai Weiwei and Wu Yaren. Fellow residents, enraged by the government’s actions, are seen confronting police only to be physically dragged away from the neighbourhood. The district that was once the hunting grounds for China’s Imperial Court is now a place where liberal institutions with a rich heritage of protest and dissent are picked off with increasing regularity
In the face of the governments’ relentless drive towards urban re-development and towering new housing projects, public art, one of the few means of protest in a country renowned for draconian censorship, is seemingly the first to make way. Couple that with soaring living costs and the competitiveness of China’s mainstream commercial art markets in areas like Hong Kong, and the health of China’s alternative art scene looks seriously under threat.
Find more information on de Sarthe gallery here.