Deep in the backstreets of Guangzhou, through twisting and turning neighborhood lanes a taxi can hardly fit through, there’s an old factory building. But within its light tan walls, everything is repurposed. The arts have taken over a place once sworn to industry.
Through a small entrance, and through a twisting maze-like gallery — literally called Maze Gallery — there’s a hallway of small shops. One of these, which makes itself known with a small sign depicting a dog with poop for a head, is Book & Fun.
As soon as I enter the shop, I’m greeted by owner Berry. Taken aback at first, she recognizes me for the large piece of rolling luggage I’ve got with me, immediately inviting me inside.
Berry has a welcoming personality that could make anyone feel at home in her store. She tells me she started the shop in October 2020, out of a desire to branch out from filling her own illustrations online. In the beginning, the shop mainly consisted of items from her personal collection. As Berry gradually made more contacts through art book fairs and other events around the country, the small space filled to the brim with all sorts of picture books, zines, children’s books, collectibles, manga, and more.
Having majored in digital media studies in college, Berry also took many computer-based courses, including software design. Her college studies have helped her greatly when on the lookout for new materials.
“I like these because most are based on vision,” Berry says of her selection. Because “these works] can cross national boundaries and language barriers, while offering a peek into the minds of incredible artists.” Her collection has presented her with artistic concepts she had never considered, with the shop being a way for her to share these with the world and to spark greater discussion.
The collection is indeed impressive. It’s hard to keep the eyes fixed on one thing, what with a parade of volumes of all shapes, sizes, and colors all around. In a thin room to the right-hand side of the store, there’s a guitar in a tan case — Berry’s own, from when she played in bands from college onward — leading into an exhibition, the first Berry has put on in the store, of vinyl records, cassettes, and CDs.
Everything in the exhibition was supplied by local record stores, each showcasing the art on a particular cassette, record, or CD case — or on the materials themselves. For Berry, its not just about the music, she tells me, but about the variety that can be found through album art. And the exhibition won’t be the last, with things for Spring Festival and beyond planned, building on the idea as Book & Fun as a space for art.
Despite all the stuff from China’s new art underground, the store and its surrounding complex give off a nostalgic feeling. This is partly by design
, and partly by accident. Called Jingzili Cultural Innovation Complex, it was once a 3-block factory house, later housing more than 20 homes, before being turned into a space filled with artisan fashion, jewelry, and design studios.
The remains of the factory and 20 homes can still be found throughout the complex, even in the bookshop. In the left-hand corner of the shop there’s a small nook for listening to music, with steep steps leading up to a space that used to be someone’s home.
The complex is indeed interesting, as once outside Book and Fun, through a hallway, you arrive back at Maze Gallery, which winds upstairs, with twisting corridors and halls. You can end up back where you started or else at a completely different spot, having taken in a whole lot of art along the way.
Winding up back at the shop to pick up my luggage, Berry comes out again, with two special pins featuring the store’s mascot. A memento from a cool shop in Guangzhou, with lots of books, fun, and then some.
Book & Fun Bookstore | 不安分书店
Hours: Wed-Mon, 2:00pm-6:30pm
Address: 105 Jingzili Culture Park, Zhongshan 7th Road, Liwan District, Guangzhou, Guangdong
Editor | 编辑: Ana Padilla Fornieles