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Photo of the Day: An Impromptu Beach Bon Voyage for de Sarthe Beijing

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Our Photo of the Day series this week shares photos of recent openings at 798 and Caochangdi, adjacent creative zones central to Beijing’s contemporary art world.

Today’s photo is a closing, not an opening: last week, the Caochangdi branch of contemporary art gallery de Sarthe receive an abrupt notice that it had to clear the premises by the end of the month. Other buildings on the same side of the street were similarly affected, in a clearance that seems to be related to construction surrounding a nearby highway and bridge.

The gallery also maintains a base of operations in Hong Kong, where it has been operating since 2010, and the search for a new Beijing space will begin immediately, according to director Nessa Cui.

Fittingly enough, de Sarthe Beijing’s final show in Caochangdi, The Anything Machine, featured several works by Hong Kong artist Mak Ying Tung 2 that raise poignant questions about the detritus and transience of our digitally mediated lives. One room featured lush icons of now all-but-defunct technologies that once enraptured those old enough to remember them and young enough to have enjoyed them circa the year 2000 (see above). The centerpiece consisted of three large piles of sand distributed across the gallery’s main space, as if to reference the waste created by our constant demand for new plastic things.

The title of another piece in the show references Taobao, China’s main e-commerce platform (and a weird world unto itself), and Taobao’s very inescapability is evident in the fact that both the bulk sand and the small group of robo-vacuums patrolling the floor around them were purchased on the platform.

Upon receiving the news of their impending departure, de Sarthe packed up The Anything Machine, leaving only the sand, which was swept up into a corner and adorned with a beach umbrella for an impromptu bon voyage party last night. Drinks were served, dance music was DJ’d, sand angels were made by a couple of kids who’ve probably never had as much fun in a white cube, and good vibes prevailed as the concerns behind the gallery spoke of seeking a new neighborhood in which to plant their flag.

Cover image via de Sarthe

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Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.

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