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Xu Zhen, Artist, Aug. 25, 2015


Xu Zhen, Artist, Aug. 25, 2015
Xu Zhen's "Under Heaven" (2014). Image courtesy of Artshare


Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors.



At the beginning when I was making art, and then an art centre, then art media, I was always working with a team, including management and project planning. Later in 2009, I realised many things, including the making of art, that art is a brand, that artist is also a brand, that you can operate with a small production line. I incorporated many of my previous experience, and gathered those who have worked with me before, and thought we could build a brand

Does art risk being too commercial when it is presented as a brand?

I don’t that think there is any problem with that. This is just like the conversation many of us have about whether art should be commercial, and which artwork is commercial, which is not. Actually I think that the commercial element is a very small aspect of art. Art is much more than that. Commerciality is only a very small part of it.

Tell us about your first solo show in Hong Kong during Art Basel 2015

This series of painting was first produced at the beginning of 2014, when the Armory Show in New York has commissioned us [MadeIn Company] to work on its branding. This series was actually shown at many places around the world. We think that at this time, and this venue, this series seems to be the most appropriate. It can draw your attention. The colour palette of these paintings – that focuses on twenty years old - was especially done for this exhibition. We think that PMQ is more catered to the general public, and the relationship between art and the public, and we think that these colours can attract the public and will be well liked.

What is the concept behind the ‘Under Heaven’ series?

I was 20 years old in 1997. I always think that this is somewhat related to Hong Kong, but of course not in a political way. It is just that there is a place like that in your memory. Also, we interviewed many people, and asked them what colour they would relate to 20 years old and youth. Many of these colours are mixed together, but you would get the sense that at 20 years old, you didn't have a lot of burden, and very far away from now, but everyone is happy to look back to those days. I think that 20 years old is a good entry point [to look at these works], most importantly you will enjoy the work and gain pleasure in viewing them.

How do you see the international focus on contemporary Chinese art in the recent years?

I think that [the Chinese art scene] will become more and more popular, such as since a few years ago, in Hong Kong during fair times on March and May, there are more and more activities, whether from abroad or China, more and more artists and galleries are participating. Many private museums opened in 2014 in Shanghai, also different kinds of art fairs, more opportunities for young Chinese artists. This is a very positive thing, and the whole world operates like that. The international art scene also changes very quickly. Whether it is ‘international’ or ‘Chinese’, this seems to bother the Chinese a lot, but actually, [the differentiation] is not as severe. As long as you produce good art, you will have somewhere to show it, and others will see your work. So I think that this really does not concern much in the production of art, but a change in the art scene as a whole.

How do the new and old generation of Chinese artists compare with each other?

There is no relation between art and living conditions. Whether you are rich or poor; making ends meet, or living happily, I don’t think that [art] has any relation with that. Some may ask what has changed [in the Chinese art circle] from 1980s till after 2001, maybe the biggest difference is the number of artists. Maybe in the 80s, all of the artists were truly passionate about art. They would not talk about money, because they didn't have any. Yet they are the ones who are talking about money now. It doesn’t matter. As long the work is good, and you create good art and culture, you will continue to produce good work no matter what. If you like art and live a comfortable life, would you stop producing art? Surely that cannot happen.


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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