Art dealer

By Sun Shuangjie Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-18 17:53:01

Shanghainese artist Xu Zhen and his thriving MadeIn Company

Blissful as Gods is the title given by Shanghainese artist Xu Zhen to his latest solo exhibition at ShanghART Gallery.

The inspiration for the title came from his artwork Eternity, which is a sculpture featuring a golden Tibetan Buddhist figure named Yam`ntaka. Normally, sculptures of Yam`ntaka depict him having sex with another Buddhist figure, but for Eternity, Xu has substituted the Greek goddess Psyche.

Substitution and inversion are running themes in Xu's realm, where well-known figures from different cultures and different parts of the world are harmonized, creating fresh and interesting dialogues in each piece of work.

Earlier this year, a number of sculptures from Xu Zhen's Eternity series were showcased at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, sharing the same spirit of integrating Western and Eastern cultures and religions by placing inverted Buddha statues on top of statues of Greek gods and goddesses.


Shanghainese artist Xu Zhen's works, Corporate - Eight Alliances I


Comfortable with change

"It's subconscious for me to invert existing images and concepts," said the artist, who was born in 1977, the year before China initiated its reform and opening-up policy.

"Our generation grew up with influences from rock'n'roll music and revolutionary changes in society. We were the first to witness the changes led by China's reform and opening-up and the era of the Internet. So for me, I'm more comfortable with change and taking advantage of different cultures," Xu said.

Blissful as Gods reveals the artist's explorations over the past year. At the center of one of the gallery's halls stands a statue of Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea, on whose head and extended arms sit a row of roasted pigeons.

"Someone called the work an encounter between traditional metaphysics and consumerism," the artist said, self-mockingly.

Other audacious pieces include two installations made of black leather and BDSM (Bondaged, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism) accessories, which are arranged tightly together to resemble the frescos of ancient Egypt. The pieces are called Corporate - Eight Alliances I and II. The objects used to create the pieces were originally part of a sculpture of a church.

Meanwhile, photos of saliva are magnified and cut in different shapes, with the textures of the fluid resembling satellite maps of unknown places.

Also surrounding the sculpture of Poseidon is a range of blocks that resemble those found in Tetris, with surfaces that are magnified pictures of the tiles from Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

"It's like a renovated square, with floors turning into Tetris tiles, flying pigeons becoming roasted, and churches transformed into flat surfaces," said the artist, who compares his working process to that of a stream of consciousness novelist. "I love things that are different. In contemporary society, which moves forward at such a high speed, for me as an observer it has always been exciting. So I think culture itself should also be exciting in some way, and how it is exciting for me also changes with time."

Eternity Photos: Courtesy of the gallery

The Xu Zhen brand

All of the works on view are credited to the Xu Zhen brand produced by MadeIn Company, a contemporary art company set up by Xu in 2009.

Xu, who is in charge of the company, says that the difference between the artist Xu Zhen and the brand Xu Zhen lies in that the latter is based on the collective wisdom of his MadeIn team, which helps Xu realize his artistic ideas in the form of solid artworks and projects.

The company also promotes other artists such as He An and Wang Sishun, has its own gallery at 50 Moganshan Road, and recently established a store to sell artworks on the Bund.

It's not common in China for an artist to run their own company, thus when Xu became a businessman five years ago, he received a lot of criticism for being too commercially oriented.

The artist himself never expected to set up a company when he graduated from Shanghai Arts & Crafts College in 1996.

"The environment for artists in the late 1990s was not good. Few art venues would put on solo exhibitions for young artists, who for the most part could only share their art among friends. I wanted my voice as an artist to be heard, so I started to organize events myself. This developed into a habit of doing things on my own," said the artist, who participated in 2001 Venice Biennale with Cai Guoqiang, becoming the youngest Chinese artist to have participated in the prestigious event.

Xu never hesitates when it comes to talking about commercialism, and has said before that he considers artworks to be goods, and that he'd like to make the products of MadeIn more artistic.

"By saying artworks are goods, I mean they can be possessed, like we can possess any other object. It's not to belittle art," he explained.

Making products more artistic for Xu means that he keeps a close eye on China and its culture amid globalization, observes the changes that naturally occur, and reflects on them in his art creations.

"I don't know what kind of culture I will reflect in my work tomorrow, just as I don't know what I'll eat and who I'll meet tomorrow," added Xu.

Date: Until December 26, 10 am to 6 pm

Venue: ShanghART Gallery

Address: Bldg 16 and 18, 50 Moganshan Road


Admission: Free

Call 6359-3923 for details

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Art, Culture

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