10 Must-See Works at Shanghai’s West Bund Art Fair

Sam Gaskin
Nov 8, 2018 10:08PM

West Bund Art & Design opened its fifth edition to VIPs on Wednesday, having more than doubled in size to welcome 115 galleries. The fair feels big this year: In addition to the huge main hall—once a manufacturing warehouse—a new hall has been added, creating a combined floor plan of 20,000 square meters (about 215,000 square feet).

The continued rise in buying power and sophistication of Chinese collectors has led many of the international galleries in the main hall to bring Basel-level presentations—principle among them David Zwirner’s booth, which features just one work, Dan Flavin’s untitled (to Sonja) (1969). Chinese galleries and artists were more present in the other exhibition areas, and delivered a number of discoveries from around the region. Here are 10 works worth seeking out at West Bund, which runs through November 11th.

Sun Choi, Magenta Painting (2012), print on synthetic fabric, $25,000 at P21 Gallery

Sun Choi, Magenta Painting, 2012. Courtesy of P21 Gallery.

Sun Choi, Magenta Painting, 2012. Courtesy of P21 Gallery.

In response to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, South Korea killed over 3 million cows and pigs from late 2010 through 2011. Over 1 million of them were brutally buried alive, rousing the anger of animal welfare groups. That these events should be the subject of Sun Choi’s Magenta Painting—a large, ostensibly plain pink-ink work on synthetic fabric—shows the artist’s disdain for dansaekhwa (literally “monochrome painting”), which grew in popularity in Korea from the 1970s. On closer inspection, the magenta is not uniform, but consists of tiny, printed serial numbers for the millions of destroyed animals.

Zheng Yuan, Image Study (2014), video, CNY20,000 ($2,900) at MadeIn Gallery

Zheng Yuan, Image Study, 2014. Courtesy of MadeIn Gallery.


This computer desktop screen-recording unveils the intimate, attention-deficit clicks and drags of a young Chinese artist at play online. An image of Roland Barthes smoking is minimized to reveal video tutorials on how to roll cigarettes and use Photoshop, before other windows are maximized to show manga from the website Douban and clips from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966). Born in 1988 in Lanzhou, in China’s northwestern Gansu province, Zheng Yuan received an MFA in film, video, new media, and animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. Also of note in MadeIn Gallery’s booth are similarly digitally dexterous works by rising young Internet artist Miao Ying (the subject of solo show at the brick-and-mortar gallery nearby).

Masaya Chiba, Self-portrait #4 (2015), face paint on paper, printouts, and DVD, $25,000 at ShugoArts

Masaya Chiba, Self-portrait #4 , 2015. Courtesy of ShugoArts.

Masaya Chiba painted his own face onto the face of his English teacher before filming him teaching a class. The dual faces are disconcerting, like something an Instagram makeup artist would post on Halloween, but the work is also a keen meditation on the way artists and subjects—and teachers and students—inform and assume each other’s ideas and perceptions. The notion that good teachers leave an impression on their students is inverted at the end of the video, when the teacher’s painted face is pressed into paper, leaving an impression of the student. Born in Kanagawa in 1980, Chiba has been collected by museums in Japan, as well as Hong Kong’s M+ Museum. Six of his paintings are showing at the Shanghai Biennale, which opens to the public November 10th.

Sun Yitian, Parrot (2018), acrylic on canvas, CNY53,000 ($7,654) at BANK

Sun Yitian, Parrot, 2018. Courtesy of BANK.

Beijing-based artist Sun Yitian’s paintings look like something Jeff Koons would make if the world ever ran out of stainless steel. Her lush, hyperreal inflatables have struck a chord in China. Sun only received her post-graduate degree in painting from the Central Academy of Fine Art in 2018, but she already counts Yuz Museum founder Budi Tek among her collectors. Her solo show “A Twinkle” all but sold out when it concluded at BANK in late October.

Ni Youyu, Playing Field (2018), mixed media, €19,500 ($22,341) at Contemporary Fine Arts

Ni Youyo, Playing Field, 2018. Courtesy of Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin.

Ni Youyo, Playing Field , 2018. Courtesy of Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin.

Ni Youyu has been making works from antique pinball games for years. He finds them—and the materials he meticulously installs inside—at flea markets and dumps in Japan, the U.S., and Europe, and increasingly on eBay. Each is its own miniature study of space and science, mysticism and chaos. Contemporary Fine Arts launched a catalogue of Ni’s pinball works series, entitled Relic (2018), at the fair. Of more than 60 pieces he has created, Ni said he has sold more than half. A particular highlight is this football stadium, whose running track serves as an orbit, with a grid that’s meant to be reminiscent, the artist says, of Piet Mondrian.

Korakrit Arunanondchai, Mr Max Lee goes to work, plays soccer with his friend, smokes a cigarette after soccer, drinks a beer, checks his Instagram and goes to bed, 3,000 years later, as a base for other things to grow (2016), skeleton mannequin, paint, resin, $45,000 at Carlos/Ishikawa

Korakrit Arunanondchai, Mr. Max Lee goes to work, plays soccer with his friend, smokes a cigarette after soccer, drinks a beer, check his Instagram and goes to bed, 3000 years later, as a base for other things to grow, 2016–18. © Korakrit Arunanondchai. Courtesy of Carlos / Ishikawa, London.

Korakrit Arunanondchai, Mr. Max Lee goes to work, plays soccer with his friend, smokes a cigarette after soccer, drinks a beer, check his Instagram and goes to bed, 3000 years later, as a base for other things to grow , 2016–18. © Korakrit Arunanondchai. Courtesy of Carlos / Ishikawa, London.

The temporal zoom-out in the title of this work—from the ephemeral moments in a day, smoking a cigarette and scrolling through Instagram, to the sudden passage of millennia—is a worthy effort at confronting our outsized interest in the immediate. The contrast of goopy, collapsed carbon and bright, plasticky-resin is especially cogent in China, the coal and cement heart of the Anthropocene era, where little effort is being made to reduce the production of materials that will long outlast their usefulness. Thai-American artist Korakrit Arunanondchai was born in 1986, studying at the Rhode Island School of Design before earning his MFA from Columbia; he now lives in New York’s Chinatown, with a studio in Queens. His London gallery, Carlos/Ishikawa, has joined the fair for the first time this year, sharing a booth with Shanghai gallery Antenna Space.

Wu Chen, The Needed Male Model and Female Model (2018), acrylic on canvas, $21,000 at Magician Space

Wu Chen, The Needed Male Model and Female Model , 2018. Courtesy of Magician Space.

With West Bund feeling more grown-up than ever, Wu Chen was still able to sneak a whoopee cushion of a work onto the walls. The artist is depicted as a painter’s palette with eyes and nose stuck on, Mr. Potato Head–style. He’s placed on a crucifix that’s flanked on either side by a banana phallus and a buxom, benippled coconut palm. Though he doesn’t sport one himself, the self-portrait has a Groucho Marx moustache, and the rest of the composition makes about as much sense as a statement often credited to Marx: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” Even the date on the work—the 13th month of 2018—is absurd. It’s all id, a welcome counterpoint to the superego of so many young Chinese artists whose work too quickly goes dry, wry, bloodless, and boring.

Nyoman Masriadi, Dance of Peace (2018), acrylic on canvas, $168,000 at ROH Projects

Nyoman Masriadi, Dance of Peace, 2018. Courtesy of ROH Projects.

Indonesian gallery ROH Projects took the unusual step of borrowing works from collectors to flesh out its solo show of paintings by Nyoman Masriadi. Paintings from the 1990s, including Diet is Completed (1999)—which seesa tough-looking nurse inquire “ganteng…pesan apa?” (“what do you want to eat, handsome?”)—are combined with two new works. One is a triptych of female superheroes, all with nothing but cleaning instruments for weapons, suggesting a tension between pop-cultural messages of female empowerment and persistent prejudices. The other, Dance of Peace, features mythical black-skinned women dancing for the viral, inane, ubiquitous lip-sync app TikTok.

Yin Xiuzhen, Wall Instrument No. 9 (2016), porcelain and used clothes, $55,000 at Pace Gallery

Yin Xiuzhen, Wall Instrument No. 9, 2016. © Yin Xiuzhen. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.

Despite being one of China’s top artists, showing at the 2007 Venice Biennale and taking part in the 2017 Guggenheim exhibition “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World,” Yin Xiuzhen hasn’t showed in Shanghai much in recent years. Born in Beijing in 1963, her ceramic works incorporate found fabrics, embedding some of the fraught recent history in a material often more associated with ancient greatness.

Chen Qiulin, Peppermint — Tree (2018), film photography, $12,000 at A Thousand Plateaus Art Space

Chen Qiulin, Peppermint—Tree, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and A Thousand Plateaus Art Space, Chengdu.

Through her photographs, Chen Qiulin revisits memories of lost moments, a practice that takes on special significance when you discover that much of her hometown, Wanzhou, was wiped out during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, submerged by rising reservoir waters. Born in 1975, Chen graduated from the printmaking department of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 2000. Her experience as the sole female in her childhood martial arts class inspired this image of a Chinese student—wearing a typical high-school tracksuit—practicing his forms on a barge.

Sam Gaskin