Chances are you have driven by one of Beijing’s richest collections of graffiti street art and never noticed it. This is likely the case for most commuters who take Jingmi Lu past Wangjing on their way into or out of the city. For nearly a kilometer and a half, from the Jiangtai Rd intersection at Lido to the intersection at the Dashan Bridge and Wangjing Street (finalist in the worst left turn in Beijing competition), the foundation wall for the airport express has become the canvas for a growing number of art works by a collection of different crews and graffiti “writers” as the Beijing-based graffiti crowd prefer to be called.
For the better part of an hour, I meandered underneath the trees that line the road that tend to shield the artwork from most commuters. On a gloriously sunny day, when people should be out walking in droves in such a space, I only encountered five other people and two of those were watering the foliage. It is a parallel corridor to Jingmi Lu, but another reality entirely; a blend of nature, concrete, and some very cool graffiti; like a private art gallery that was set up just for me.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no expert on graffiti or its use in Beijing, but it has clearly been growing in popularity in the four and a half years that I have lived in the city. Some of the writing is in English, most appears to be stylized Chinese that I’m unable to decode, and some the names or “tags” of the authors. But inside the words there is also a good deal of imagery and even that which cannot be read can still be mind-bogglingly stunning; especially considering it is done with spray paint and usually in the dark of night. Among the messages are indications of a growing global awareness of the Beijing graffiti scene including a behemoth proclaiming, “Germany Meets China – Unite Don’t Divide”. Here’s hoping this type of street art can bring people together, if for no other reason than to check out the writing on the wall.
To learn more about the Beijing Graffiti scene, check out Spray Paint Beijing, a documentary film by Beijing-based filmmaker Lance Crayon.
photo by Christopher Lay