Monday, April 13, 2009

Basketball's Popularity in China + 798 Art District

751 art district beijingThis past weekend, we went to the 798 Art District in Beijing. Beijing Magazines, websites and travel guides bill the district as Beijing's Greenwich Village or its SoHo. They describe a former industrial park that was overrun by the hipster elite punk rockers where the avant garde arts flourished.

Despite the abundance of interesting art of all mediums, its pretty clear that whatever independent spirit the park once had has been co-opted by the international art scene and bank rolled by large companies.

751 district lebron jamesThis is evidenced by the existence of a King Lebron James Basketball Court Shoe Wonderland™. I may have messed up my imaginary translation, but when wandering around the former industrial park, I saw in the distance the towering visage of the most recent and still American King (Sorry Elvis. Sorry George). When we got closer, we heard dribbling, squeaking and whistles. People play basketball EVERYwhere in Beijing, but I was a little surprised to see a Nike-sponsored King Lebron James Basketball Court Shoe Wonderland™ Gym. Complete with a horde of amateur athletes playing a refereed game.

751 basketball courtOf course we went in and watched for a bit. I pretty much wanted to stay long enough to get a cool action picture and, as you can see, I got what I was looking for. The experience was a little surreal. The place was full of neon and weird shapes and I'm pretty sure the court and nets were regulation for a middle school. I felt like I was in Double-Dare. I also half-expected the buzzers to be replaced by a pre-recording of Lebron saying "BZZZZ The Period is Over - BUY MY SHOES". I guess the extensive branding was enough.

751 art district graffitiAs I said, the park itself was full of galleries and a lot of young Chinese and older westerners. I was most interested in some of the graffiti that remained around the place. Though I'm not sure how much was original and how much was added after the boutiques started going up, it was still pretty cool.