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The Arrow Factory.
The Arrow Factory.

Beijing’s Arrow Factory Closes Its Doors

The Arrow Factory, an artist-led space located in a small hutong inside the Second Ring Road in Beijing, closed last month after a decade of presenting experimental projects and site-specific works in its storefront window. Founded in 2008 by artists Rania Ho and Wang Wei and curator Pauline J. Yao, the independent space endured through the Chinese government’s recent crackdown on Beijing’s “non-capital functions and features”—which Jia Li recently surveyed in “Letter from Beijing” on—but ultimately reached the decision to cease operations.

“It has been nothing short of a small miracle that Arrow Factory lasted this long, especially in a city that has witnessed such extreme transformations as Beijing has in these past ten years,” reads a letter penned by the venue’s founders. “While we have always accepted that our existence was tenuous—subject to rising rents, gentrification and usual government scrutiny—we did not expect what would actually occur: a layering of top down policies disguised as ‘neighborhood improvements’ that would slowly asphyxiate our hutong, making our work untenable.” While Arrow Factory’s run might be over, the founders are trying to figure out their next move.

Over the years, the space lent a platform for artists such as Yan Lei, Nie Mu, Wei-Li Yeh, and Liu Wei. For Time Spent, 2014, Li Yueyang, a former incarcerated person, was invited to display an exact replica of his prison bed, which he had re-created in his home. Jia Li, a former curator of Pace Beijing, said that Arrow Factory’s “small-scale, low-budget model of operation and distance from the major art districts allowed the space to insulate itself from the pressures of the art market and institutional discourse.”

She continued: “Free to develop on its own terms, it became a prime example of DIY self-organization, encouraging young practitioners and those dissatisfied with the existing order to create nontraditional spaces where they could realize exhibitions, talks, and performances that wouldn’t otherwise be accepted by local galleries or museums.”