Part I

Showcase Beijing

Art centers created as part of commodity apartment enterprises emerged as one aspect of an overall politics of display in new millennial Beijing. This chapter presents the East Modern Art Center—the showpiece of a socialist textile factory/work unit turned real estate development—as a case study to analyze the nested relationship of state-led urban renewal, privatized real estate, art exhibition, and art. It examines the push to make Beijing a global showcase through spectacular urban planning and widespread demolition; the development of commodity housing as part of a “growth-machine” ethic in which developers leveraged art as a marker of cosmopolitanism; and the historical layers, classed and gendered social relations, and contradictory impulses that collided in the East Modern Art Center. Its inaugural event, for which artists produced pieces about and in collaboration with male rural migrant workers, highlighted conflicting ideas about art and led to the Center’s eventual demise.