CR: Tell us the basics about Red Gate Residency:
Tang Zehui: Red Gate Residency was founded in 2001, we're celebrating the 12th anniversary this year. Over the years, we've hosted over 500 artists, and on average we host 70 a year. At any given time there are 8 to 12 artists in the residency, in our 6 studios in the artist community Feijiacun, outside of Beijing, and 3 apartments downtown in Tuanjiehu.
CR: What are some opportunities for artists to show their work?
TZ: In the past, we've held open studios every other month for the residents to showcase their work, with drinks & a barbecue.
We also have some very exciting new projects. We are collaborating with a near Goulou to host pop up exhibitions in the hutongs. We are starting more and more formal collaborations, for example with a shopping mall in Beijing where we're curating a window display. The artists can play with this free and flexible space, creating installations and performances even, which will be a neat way for the general public to get to know their work. It's a special opportunity beyond traditional art spaces.
CR: How far in advance should artists apply, and what do they need to know before coming?
TZ: Normally the facilities are filled 6 months in advance.
For many of the artists it's their first time in China, in Asia even, so there are a lot of things they need to know before coming. But before they arrive, we send them lots of information about the facilities, the beijing art scene and info about working and living here.
CR: You provide wonderful support and orientation for the artists, can you tell us specifically how that works?
TZ: We pick them up at the airport when they land and take them to their studio or apartment. We orient them, show them around the neighborhood. For the artists in the studios, we take them around the artist community where there are over 200 artists living in the area. At the same time, there are international european shopping malls, houses and supermarkets (it's quite close to the international school) - on the other hand, you have a small traditional village where migrant workers live, it's a very different lifestyle. The artists navigate these two world, but they quickly they find their way around.
During the orientation, we also tell them where they can buy art supplies and how to hire a translator or assistant if they'd like.
CR: What kind of events do you organize for the artists?
TZ: We organize communal events, like a welcome dinner in the first week for them to get to know each other. We also hold an artist talk where each resident gives a 10 to 15 minute presentation about their work just to their fellow residents.
We keep them posted on exhibitions, opening and things happening in Beijing. For instance, this month was Art Beijing (the major art fair in Beijing) so we took all the artists to the opening, That was a very good introduction to get to know about the different galleries in Beijing.
CR: Do you encourage collaborations between residents?
TZ: The artists all have very different personalities, sometime they are very social and willing to collaborate with each other. Just last week, we got a message from two of our past residents who are collaborating on an exhibition in Sydney. We encourage them to collaborate, but we also understand that for many artists who came here with a very particular idea or project, they really need to concentrate on their own art making, we respect that as well.
For us, creating this community and environment is important, and the artists can choose to participate as much as they want.
CR: Why is China an interesting place for artists?
TZ: People often say Beijing may be the next art center after New York or Berlin. We don't know that for sure, but it is certainly exciting. Lots of things are happening here.
Some artists come to network. They may meet curators, scholars, and galleries that they would not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet in their home country. Major international galleries are opening new spaces and venues here.
For many artists, Beijing is also still relatively inexpensive. The cost is rising of course, but compared to Europe, particularly for sculptors who want to do large scale sculptures, even when accounting for shipping costs, it's cheaper here. The same goes for hiring assistants. In Feijiacun, there is a quite famous american painter, Kehinde Wiley, who has about 20 people working in his studio since 2009.
I think, generally speaking, it's exciting for the artists to be able to have this opportunity to concentrate on art making in a very different environments, it's very inspiring. We often hear from our past residents that their work has been transformed by their experience on residency.
This interview was conducted in Beijing by Crystal Ruth Bell & Kira Simon-Kennedy for China Residencies.