China is spending 18 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion) to build a 988 acre (four million square metre) new city dedicated to the arts that will include performance venues, a museum, exhibition space for artist residencies and offices, it was announced at the Venice Biennale of Architecture yesterday. Valley XL, named after the project’s location in Xinglong County, Hebei province, is the latest massive infrastructure project planned for the area since President Xi Jinping made the integration of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area into a single megalopolis his administration’s signature project . Asian collectors buying more Western art – and setting sights higher The city is being built by two little-known companies called Shenzhen XL Culture Development and Guangdong Yuegang Investment Development. “Through a major expansion of art-based industries it is hoped that Valley XL will establish a long-term, stable, ecological community and a high-quality living environment for the enjoyment of resident creative practitioners and international tourists alike,” says the press release. China is building thousands of so-called cultural towns across the country to boost tourism, local economies and its soft power. It is not clear, however, whether there is enough quality content to fill all the new venues and exhibition spaces. Most of the projects are undertaken by private developers who are able to get ample bank loans to fund construction. It is not clear how the Valley XL developers are financing such a massive project. They say they will work in partnership with national and international arts institutions and they have hired curator Li Zhenhua as the Valley’s cultural adviser. Li is the founder of Beijing Art Lab and curator of the film section of Art Basel Hong Kong. Construction is expected to begin in the second half of this year, with the arts city opening in phases. The first phase is aiming for a soft opening as early as next year. Valley XL is located in a valley 97 kilometres northeast of Beijing, just outside Chengde city. It is near the Great Wall and surrounded by mountains, forests and lakes. A new high-speed railway opening next year will cut the journey from Beijing to Chengde to 20 minutes, the press release says, and the Valley will be built according to environmentally sustainable principles.