Avant art: Contemporary Chinese art museums to check out around Beijing

Step out of 798 and check out these contemporary art museums peppered across the city

Photo: Song Art Museum
Want something a little different in your life? Check out one of these rather stunning contemporary art museums around Beijing, not just for the art they contain, but because each building is a work of art in and of themselves.

Arrow Factory (箭厂空间)

Critics' pick

You’ve probably walked past this hutong hole-in-the-wall a couple of times and simply imagined it was an abandoned stall fallen victim to the slowing economy. But that 15spm space on Jianchang Hutong is actually Arrow Factory (not to be confused with the Liangmaqiao brewpub), an independent art gallery dedicated to providing a unique space for artists while also bringing contemporary art to the public. Previous exhibitions at the former vegetable stall have ranged from video works, photo exhibits and a prison cell installation.

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38 Jianchang Hutong (Yonghegong/Lama Temple, Dongcheng)Free

Beijing Art Now Gallery (北京现在画廊)

Critics' pick

This two-storey art space has a two-pronged mission: to support Chinese contemporary artwork while preserving it within the context of global art history. It achieves the former with regular exhibitions from some of China’s top avant-garde artists, including iconic works from the likes of Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang. The latter it manages by collaborating with art galleries across the globe to ensure that Chinese artists are well represented at international art fairs.

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1 Caochangdi (Caochangdi, --select--)

Today Art Museum (北京今日美术馆)

Critics' pick

Today Art Museum opened in 2002 and has been leading the charge in Beijing’s contemporary art scene ever since. It focuses on Chinese artists (while also hosting international work), and supports the community by providing both a space to exhibit and a space to foster dialogue at seminars held throughout the year. You can’t miss it – just look out for the cluster of Yue Minjun’s silver laughing men fronting its exterior and you’ll know you’ve arrived.

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32 Baiziwan Lu (Shuangjing, --select--)

Red Brick Contemporary Art Museum (红砖美术馆)

Sitting amid a beautifully sculpted Chinese garden, Red Brick Art Museum derives its name from its stunning, one-of-a-kind red brick structure. Consisting of two sprawling exhibition halls and numerous smaller spaces, the museum is dedicated to hosting film screenings and regular live performances, while also boasting an impressive permanent collection of bespoke installations created by Chinese and international contemporary artists.

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Shunbai Lu (Chaoyang, --select--)

Three Shadows Photography Art Centre (三影堂摄影艺术中心)

Opened to the public in 2007, Three Shadows is China’s only privately run, non-profit centre dedicated to photography. It has two main goals: to legitimise photography as an art in China through education, and to reclaim a history of China through photographic images. According to its co-founder Rong Rong, a prominent Chinese photographer himself, ‘photography in China is three decades behind the West. It’s still not considered an art here.’ To remedy this, Three Shadows runs workshops, invites internationally renowned photographers to give lectures and boasts its own library of over 1,000 books, all in a complex designed by iconoclastic artist Ai Weiwei.

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155A Caochangdi (Caochangdi, --select--)

Song Art Museum (松美术馆)

With its pitched roofs, pure-white walls and stunning courtyard layout, Song Art Museum is worth making the trek out of the city for. Once a stable where studs were bred, it’s now home to a museum set on beautifully manicured lawns with 199 pine (or song) trees. Artwork comes courtesy of Huayi Brothers founder Wang Zhongjun’s private collection, and includes representative work of both Chinese and Western contemporary artists.

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Gelasi Lu Tianzhu Zhen (Shunyi)

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