Today Art Museum 今日博物馆

Part of A Better Guide to Beijing’s coverage of South of Qián Mén

The museum is in an austere brick converted factory and neighbouring buildings, its main galleries reached by a ramp,. Its roof edge is lined with seated figures, easily spotted from the bridge, and its forecourt features further statues by Yuè Mǐnjūn (岳敏君) — his trademark laughing self-portraits.

A mixture of temporary and permanent exhibitions of art, architecture, and planning, about 70 each year, is spread across three multi-storey spaces. See website for current schedule.

Lǚ Shùn’s (吕顺) cast steel sculpture at the rear of the main building is worth seeing. The Grand Banquet, based on Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, shows a long table of braying pigs riotously drinking and dining on parts of other pigs. This apparently obvious denunciation of official corruption, with its overtones of Animal Farm, is passed off as a criticism of religion.

The ground floor bookshop is well stocked with art books and with arty gifts featuring famous Chinese artists, as well as prints by some of them.

Neighbouring new apartment towers, collectively named 22 International Art Plaza, are clearly marketed as an arty enclave, and indeed the gallery was founded by a property developer looking to attract to neighbouring units, and is largely funded both directly by his company and by other sponsors, including artists and their dealers. Nevertheless, a supposedly independent academic team advises on acquisitions and curating exhibitions.

Around the Today Museum’s third gallery space there are other galleries, an interesting café or two, and some small-scale expensive trendy shopping: wine, cashmere, upmarket copperware, and ceramics. The chants of itinerant vendors echo across the windswept plazas and off the towers.

Jinri Měishùguǎn, Bǎizǐwān Lù 32, t 5876 0600,, 10am–5pm, Wed–Mon; closed Spring Festival. ¥20; free 1st Sat of each month and 18 May (Museum Day). m Guómào (Lines 1 & 10), exit C. Walk S down 3rd Ring over river and turn E (20 mins)
b to 双花园: 专5, 28, 57, 91, 348; walk N and turn E.

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