The metropolis is – according to real estate agents Knight Frank and Douglas Elliman – poised to become the world’s sixth most important city for the international high net worth community by 2024, leapfrogging Dubai, Geneva, and Miami.
It’s inevitable that, with such growth, the historic center of wealth and power—around Wangfujing, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square—is being joined by new and gentrified enclaves. Perhaps the most dramatic, the 798 Art Zone in Dashanzi, shares traits with transformation seen in New York’s Lower Manhattan.
Originally built on farmland as a factory by an East German and Chinese syndicate in the 1950s, the 640,000 square meters of massive Bauhaus-style structures fell out of use in the 1980s and 1990s, just as China’s contemporary art scene began to flourish. In 1995, the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts took advantage of the cheap—and enormous—space to set up a temporary home, which became permanent in 2000. A steady influx of artists and gifted minds, including international names such as Ai WeiWei, brought the area to the forefront of China’s creative economy, forming a hub for the ‘BoBo’ (Bourgeouis-Bohemian) scene. The enclave soon became established as the center of Beijing’s fashion world as well, with 751 D-Park hosting China Fashion Week in 2007–8.
The artistic movement was followed by wealth; 798’s high-end boutiques, cafés and restaurants now vie with studios and galleries for the attentions (and wallets) of cosmopolitan visitors and residents.
A Sichuan eaterie run by a poet.
A family-run French crêperie popular with artists and visitors alike.
A reservation-only restaurant that provides a welcome break from the tourists.
Dashanzi Art Zone.