Kunming’s main art district goes by many names, some call it Kunming “Chuangku” (创库) or “creative warehouse”, others call it Kunming Art Loft Community. Following the same trend as in other major art districts around China, this art community is nestled within a large abandoned industrial complex. Spanning several thousand square metres, you’re likely to see artists, students, business people, workers, advertising people and art fans wandering around in unison within its confines. Apart from the 30 artists’ workshops, you’ll also find an abundance of art galleries, bars, tea houses, restaurants, bookshops, a badminton court, art publicity companies etc. With its combination of traditional and modern art, local and foreign culture, creative workspaces and laid-back, trendy shopping and recreation spaces, Kunming Art Loft Community has become one of Kunming’s most distinct and liveliest areas.
The artists within this community have played an important role in its founding, but the existence of this important cultural centre is ultimately down to one person. In early 1999, artist Ye Yongqing set up the Upriver Club, which was something of a restaurant, bar, art gallery, teahouse and art museum all in one. Many prominent artists began hanging their works here, creating what at the time was Kunming’s only experimental art gallery engaging directly with artists, art curators, entrepreneurs, art lovers and collectors. In September 2000, Ye Yongqing together with his friend and fellow artist Tang Zhigang, went to Shanghai where he met other prominent artists and curators. He realised that like Shanghai, Kunming too has an abundance of warehouse areas that could be transformed into similarly vibrant art zones. Upon returning to Kunming, Ye and Tang approached a large factory building at 101 Xiba Lu and began negotiations with the owner to lease it as a potential home for artists. Eventually, their venture plan proved successful and in 2001, the first migration of artists into the spaces took place and so the Art Loft Community was born.
The art community currently houses four major art galleries, each one catering to a different style. From art students’ newest creations to traditional ink wash drawings, the art galleries within Art Loft Community have become the main art selling point in Kunming. The galleries here are also active in organizing art exchanges with the international community and regularly cooperate with overseas foundations and organizations. Moreover, besides the local galleries and workshops, foreigners have also begun realising the potential and charm of this space. TCG Nordica, a multi-function art gallery/cultural exchange centre specialized in creating a cultural platform between Scandinavia and China was among one of the first to claim a space within the compound.
Once a factory filled with manufacturing cutters, drill presses and other machines, Art Loft Community is now the main centre for art in the Kunming area. As Ye explained, "It's a substitute place, nothing and everything, juxtaposed with daily life and thus full of possibilities." Go see it for yourself.
Kunming Art Loft Community 昆明创库艺术区 View In Map
Add: 101 Xiba Lu, Kunming
Getting there: Take bus No. 160 and get off at Yule Lu
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