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CULTURE
Yishu 8
The 100-year-old university turned gallery bridges the gap between Chinese and Western contemporary art
by Alessandro De Toni
on 27 September 2012
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Beyond the frenzied industrial development and Disneyfication of its historic alleyways, Beijing remains a city to discover. Fascinating hidden locations and scattered traces of the past are still preserved in the old capital— among them, the 100-year-old building behind the National Art Museum that once housed the former Sino-French University.The old building is now home to Yishu 8, a gallery that inherits the tradition of the old academic institution with its dedication to contemporary art and cultural exchanges between China and the West.

Founder Christine Cayol aims to build "a private version of the Villa Medicis" at Yishu 8 by offering an artistic residency to three young French artists each year, giving them the opportunity to discover China as both a rich creative environment, as well as a site of immense cultural diversity.

Unlike typical gallery spaces, Yishu 8 offers a refined but cozy environment in which one can enjoy the artwork while relaxing in one of the city's old courtyards. The original structure has not been changed, but the old building has found new life in vivid colors and unique furnishings.

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The gallery's latest resident artist, Antoine Roegiers, has been living in Beijing for three months now, and is finding inspiration in everything from old alleys to daily life. The result is not only Roegiers' view of China but, through a series of self-portraits, a reflection of how living there has affected him. Displayed next to his remarkable paintings are two animation videos, both of which are based of the works of the Flemish masters Bruegel and Bosch.

While the foundation is supported by such illustrious backers as Hermés and Rothschild, it's the team's obvious enthusiasm for the work that makes Yishu 8 a rare gem in the bustling Beijing art scene For more information visit the gallery's website.

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