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March 5, 2011

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Artists plan for life away from iconic home

MORE than 50 artists from 696 Weihai Road, a self-organized art hub, fear they will have to leave the premises by the end of this month.

"Our contract ends this month, and we haven't heard anything about the possibility of renewing the contract from the property management office or district officials," 40-year-old painter Zhang Ping, one of the first group of tenants in the complex, told Shanghai Daily.

The situation reminds these artists of similar cases in the city in the past - the famous M-50 that had become too expensive and the old DDM Warehouse that caused disputes between artists and the management, among many other smaller art hubs.

The 696 complex welcomed its first artist tenant in 2005. Over the years, it has attracted more than 50 artists, local, out-of-town and foreign, due to the cheap rent, atmospheric surroundings and good location.

The rent has more than doubled since 2005, but is still cheap - about 3,000 yuan (US$457) for a 40-square-meter studio per month.

Over the past five years, word of the place having been sold or taken back would spread a few times a year, and the artists got used to living with the danger, signing short-term temporary contracts every now and then.

This time, however, the rumor seems to be real.

The artists heard from the management office that the land had been sold to Jing'an District last December.

They were also told that the complex would be rebuilt into a creative zone to match the ongoing project of building Weihai Road into a street of culture and media.

"As far as we know, the district government hasn't bought 696 Weihai Road, so it is hard to talk about our plan for the complex," said an official with the district government.

But the artists said they had seen a planning map at the district's Urban Planning Bureau - the complex was marked "to be rebuilt" on the map.

They hope to stay, but have started looking for new places together. The efforts were spent in vain as they couldn't find affordable creative zones within an hour's drive of the current spot. Some out-of-town artists are considering leaving the city.

"We don't want to leave empty-handed, since this place symbolizes a great five years and a lot of amazing memories. We will put the memories together into a book, our last creative product in this complex," Zhang concluded.


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