National Art Museum of China 中国美术馆

Temporary exhibitions of Chinese artists
Part of A Better Guide to Běijīng’s coverage of North and East of the Imperial City

This museum looks as if it should have been one of the ten great new buildings constructed to celebrate ten years of communist rule in 1959, but it opened four years later as a long strip of modern tedium with a big Chinese roof of which Máo disapproved, although it’s his calligraphy on the signboard.

Although it occasionally houses visiting shows from overseas, the museum mainly displays temporary exhibitions by Chinese artists. This is not necessarily those of which China is most proud, but those with the right connections or who effectively hire the halls for the purposes of self-promotion, paying at the same time for puff pieces in art magazines and for third parties to write elegiac introductions in the catalogues. The museum does at least claim to have now switched from ‘serving the artists’ to ‘serving the people’, and, if you want to decide for yourself, at least it’s free to see exhibitions of calligraphy, traditional crafts, painting, bronzes, architectural models, and more, although imported exhibitions have an entrance fee. See the website for what’s current.

French architect Jean Nouvel has won an international competition to build a vast new National Art Museum on the Olympic site, beating the late Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. When last asked, staff at the existing museum had no idea what would happen to it once the new building opened, but such a prime site so close to the geographical and political heart of Běijīng must be ripe for redevelopment.

Zhōngguó Měishūguǎn, Wǔsì Dàjiē 1, t 6401 7076,, 9am–4pm. Free (limited to 4000 admissions per day). nb Passport required. m National Art Museum (Line 8); Dōng Sì (Lines 5 & 6), walk W. b 美术馆 (N end of street): 103电车, 111电车.

The various attractions of Wángfǔ Jǐng Dàjiē are directly south, Jǐng Shān Park is just west and beyond that is the Peking University Red Building. Note that you may no longer enter the Forbidden City from the north. The Dōng Sì Mosque is east and south down Dōng Sì Nán Dàjiē, a street with lively shopping and restaurants.

Next in North and East of the Imperial City: Dōng Sì Mosque
Previously: Introduction to North and East of the Imperial City
Main Index of A Better Guide to Beijing.

For discussion of China travel, see The Oriental-List.