All photos of Artron Art Centre by me.
Just 45 minutes away on the bus from Hong Kong is the Mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen. This is an incredibly modern place where most people are under 30, highly entrepreneurial, open to trying new things and completely Instagram-obsessed. Well, more like WeChat-obsessed as Instagram is blocked by the Great Firewall of China. But the concept is still the same: post as many photos of yourself in beautiful, inspiring locations as possible to make all your followers green with envy.
About Artron Art Centre
The end result is a lot of new buildings popping up with a heavy emphasis on design. One such building is the Artron Art Centre. It’s run by the Artron group, a leading art printing house, with the lofty aim of collecting the world’s most beautiful art books. The Centre houses an extensive library, both digital and analogue, which patrons may browse and purchase. There are also several gallery spaces in the building, a theatre and many subtle design features to keep architecture enthusiasts and Insta-babes and -bros occupied for hours.
Things to do
I took at least an hour to browse the exhibits and appreciate the design of the place. Sloping floors, a 50 metre × 30 metre book wall featuring approximately 50,000 selected art titles, off-beat sculptures around every corner and modern lighting features made Artron Art Centre one of the most beautiful bookshops I’ve ever seen. The exhibitions were also great entertainment with many interactive features. I had the most fun playing with a digital wardrobe of sorts where you could try on different traditional Chinese outfits. I had a great time waving my arms around to control the program and take photos of myself in some rather unflattering getups.
Entrance Fee and Buying Books
It costs RMB200 (US$30) to visit but that exact amount then turns into vouchers. Although it’s quite expensive, it means that all the would-be Instagrammers are kept away so you can actually enjoy the space selfie stick free. The onsite café looked a little bland, so I saved my vouchers for a book rather than a meal. It took me another hour of perusing all the titles before I finally chose a book to take home. Browsing the book wall was a feat in itself. I saw maybe 25% of what was available as many titles were too high for me to read. Eventually I found a book by MoMA on American Expressionists that I really wanted and asked at the front desk for a copy. Unfortunately, they only had the display book and couldn’t sell it to me. I was lost.
Members Only Section
I started looking through their digital catalogue but that was not so simple either. It was designed for Chinese language users, so trying to figure out the system and search in English proved fruitless. Luckily, one of the staff took pity on me and let me into the members-only section. This was the highlight of the Centre for me. It was such a luxurious library with leather chairs, specialist staff and a highly curated collection of art books ranging from European impressionists to American pop to Chinese calligraphy. I went through so many titles trying to find a book to call my own. I finally settled on KowloonKing by Joel Chung.
My Chosen Art Book: KowloonKing by Joel Chung
This is an art book detailing the street art of Tsang Tsou-choi, affectionately known as the King of Kowloon. It is believed that the King had found documents suggesting his grandfather had held the title to the Peninsular of Kowloon, which is why he claimed himself to be king. He took to the streets of Hong Kong to tell his story in his own self-taught style of calligraphy. Some may call it graffiti but he has come to hold a special place in Hong Kong culture. You can still see some of his work at the Star Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui, protected and preserved by plexiglass. The book was a good find and much cheaper to buy there than in a shop in Hong Kong.
Anyway, I personally had a great time at Artron. But if you don’t want an art book or can’t fudge your way into the members’ only section, the RMB200 ticket may be too pricey to be worth it.
Artron Art Centre
19 Shenyun Rd, Nanshan District, Shenzhen