International art and history in SZ
Now Guanlan may not be on any bodies list as a must visit list in Shenzhen, but that needs to change because Guanlan actually has a lot to offer any intrepid explorer, history buff or art fanatic. Nestled away in the sleepy (but fast developing) part of the city is the Guanlan Print village and museum. This Hakka style village houses some of the worlds most renowned printmakers and truly a hub of international printmaking. This place may be relatively unknown generally but in the printmaking field it really is world famous, and its right on our doorstep!
So what is printmaking?
Printmaking: widely celebrated for bringing about a much-needed democratisation of art, Printmaking allows the creation of multiple artworks by reproducing paintings or drawings onto paper. This can be done in any manner of ways; by cutting into wood, Lino or metal and then inking it, or by drawing directly onto stone. These artworks are usually produced in a limited edition and then sold at a more affordable price than original paintings, but can be widely distributed or exhibited, making them an attractive option for many artists and also for first time art buyers. Nowadays, Printmaking has evolved from merely a method of reproducing drawings to become a celebrated artwork in its own right, with much scope for creative experimentation and innovation within each technique.
Guanlan Print Museum
Tucked away amongst abandoned factories, and sleepy streets lies a huge futuristic building that nobody seems to know is there. Covering an area of 17,600sqm this place is gigantic, even by SZ standards. With a huge roof, monolithic entrance and an abundance of natural light this is a standout building. For a moment you might think you had gone to the CBD area of Futian. Its an incredibly photogenic piece of architecture and one that deserves to get more visitors. The eerie lack of people makes this an even more surreal experience, and when I visited on a Monday I was the only visitor there. The lack of people may mean that things like the bookstore and café may not be open as was in my case. The museum has 5 floors, with printmaking being the obvious theme. There various different types of printmaking on display from artists all over the world. Unfortunately, there is a complete lack of English so if you’re hoping to learn while you are here, you’re better off looking on Baidu before you come.
A short walk from the museum is new who (niu hu) art space, think Oct loft crossed with Nantou but on a microcosm scale. Historical buildings with splashes of colour and creativity makes for a pleasant walk and interesting diversion. Its small enough and can be added to the day without too much of a time diversion.
Last but not least, the star attraction of Guanlan. The Printmaking village. Initiated in 2006 and officially open to the public in May, 2008, the printmaking base covers a planned area of 1.4 million square meters and a core area of 316,000 square meters. Restored from ancient Hakka dwellings of more than 300 hundred years of history, the printmaking base is a comprehensive project integrating print creation, printmaking, exhibition, collection, communication, academic research and industrial development which combines both printmaking undertaking and industry. Guanlan Original Printmaking Base is the first choice for artists where they can concentrate on their creation. The houses are Hakka style buildings and will be a familiar site to most SZ explorers. They are very well preserved and give an authentic feel to this ancient tradition.
Unfortunately, one cannot enter the buildings as they are in use private residencies, but they give a good idea of what life must have been like a century or 2 ago. It would be nice to view the artists in full flow, but again it’s a working studio and workshop, so this can only be done through a glass barrier. If you want some downtime the bookshop serves decent coffee and is very comfortable to sit and catch your breath. Possibly the most appealing part of this area are the wide-open spaces, fresh air and natural beauty. Something that can be missed in the urban jungle of downtown Shenzhen. With fruit and vegetable fields aplenty, you can find your inner farmer or just dabble at green fingers. You can pick the produce and pay by weight.
I highly recommend visiting this area. They are all within easy walking distance of each other. I suggest starting at the museum and ending at the village. You can do this in a day or even stay overnight at a hotel such as the Hard Rock Hotel or Mission Hills which are nearby.
Metro Line 4 to Niu Hu station
Or From Qinghu M339/M338 bus to the nearest stop being (菠萝岭路口站). You can also take the 312 bus from Luohu Railway Station.
Address : Guanlan Original Printmaking Base, Bao’an District, Shenzhen
The museum is open 9am-5pm Wednesday to Monday (closed on Tuesday)