New art gallery: 20% Picture House

Spirit of cult music venue XP lives on through new gallery

When experimental music venue XP closed last year, it left a major void in Beijing. Luckily for its fans, the small concert hall's spirit lives on in almost the exact same location but a whole new form.

As 20% Picture House curator Michael Marshall explains, ‘When XP closed, there was a lot of material culture from rock music in China that was left over. Michael Pettis (the owner of the Maybe Mars record label and XP) was interested in having someone start a kind of historical archive, and that got extended into an art gallery.’

The gallery might have its origins in the Beijing rock scene, but that won't be its main focus. ‘We do have an interest in supporting the music scene here, but it's not exclusively for Maybe Mars,’ Marshall says. ‘The idea is more to facilitate the development of an alternative art scene. We wanted to create an art scene around Gulou in the way that D-22 or XP facilitated the development of a post-punk scene. We specifically wanted something that could be aesthetically and ideology distinct from what you might find in 798 or Caochangdi.’

This means shows focused on comics or screen-printing instead of conceptual installations. The gallery has made its alternative intentions clear with its opening exhibit, entitled (chāi, the Chinese character for demolish), a group show from Beijing graffiti artists Filippo Cardella, Mask and Zato.

Given that it's the kind of work more likely to be seen on the walls outside Beijing's major galleries than in them, 20% Picture House's role looks like a welcome addition to the city's art scene.

拆 (chāi) is on view at 20% Picture House Jan 16 - Feb7. See full event details here.
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