Xu Yong 徐勇
One of the pioneers of 798 Art District in Beijing, Xu Yong through his photographic series 101 Portraits of Hutong witnesses the beauty of the traditional Chinese narrow lanes, hutongs, which have been systematically demolished in the name of rampant modernity. Once graceful and refined lanes, the hutongs are a symbol of Chinese ancient culture, and are rapidly vanishing due to the destructive process of Beijing's urban development.
In the 1980s Xu Yong started a campaign to preserve the uniqueness of these historical sites. Despite the government only wanting to display modern and Western architecture to foreigners, the 1990s saw him succeed in organising tours in old Beijing quarters to allow people to glimpse a breath of ancient culture.
Through these photographs Xu Yong captures fragments of a disappearing reality, capturing the ephemeral charm of the old lanes covered by snow, washed by rain and delicately shining under the sun. Xu Yong's silent black and white images reflect the loneliness of the hutongs' inhabitants as well as of the artist himself, who, in front of their destruction, could only reveal the poetry disclosed by these sites, grasping their fleeting beauty in a single picture.
101 Portraits of Hutong presents itself as a precious testimony of a lost past, bringing to light memories bearing the melancholy of the passage of time.