Xu Zhen 徐震, ‘Under Heaven – 2607F10138’, 2013, Phillips

Property of an Important Asian Collector

From the Catalogue:
Coming from a generation of abundance in an information age, the contemporary, Shanghai-based artist Xu Zhen prides himself on the use of variety of media and platforms in his artistic creation, not being bound by dogmatic labels. Beginning in the late 1990s, he made artworks in his own name, and in 2009, he founded Madein Company, 'a contemporary art creation company', under which he later launched a new brand called 'Xu Zhen' in 2013. This practice in itself challenges the nature of art creation and the role of an artist in the contemporary art world. His prolific works are often prank-like and provoking and in addition he pushes boundaries as an artist, working in diverse roles as a curator, critic, entrepreneur and promoter of contemporary culture. He has become an important figure in the Shanghai art scene today and is known to be the youngest Chinese artist to participate in the Venice Biennale.

Among his most recognised images are the Under Heaven series, created with candy-coloured paint in frosted tips carefully and painstakingly spread across the canvas in thick impasto, protruding into the audience’s space. The Chinese title of this series literally means 'all that is under the sky,' and can also be understood as 'the world' or 'the universe'. The present lot is an exceptional example from this series, showing the deft skill of the artist and quality craftsmanship in its production. Resembling a scrumptious, over-decorated cake surface created by multi-coloured paints squeezed out directly from an icing bag. 'The canvas would perhaps be more at home in a patisserie than an artist’s studio—the icing-like paint looks good enough to eat.' (Michael Young, 'Where I Work: Xu Zhen', in Art Asia Pacific, May/June 2014) While the forms derive from playful experimentation, the effect is ethereal, enchanting, and reminiscent of sea creatures, coral-like, or even abstract cityscapes (perhaps as viewed from the perspective of the gods, as implied in its title). Through these artworks, the artist attempts to provoke, humour and perhaps provide a cynical commentary on contemporary social values, where substance is often trumped by decadence and ostentation.

A major mid-career survey of the artist at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in 2014 affirms Xu’s position as one of the foremost artists in China. A show that explored geopolitical subjectivity and challenged the label of 'Chinese contemporary art'. With an artistic career that so far comprises of painting, installation, sculpture, mechanical installation, photography, video and performance, sometimes all at once within one work, he has firmly established his position in the international art scene as a forward-thinking artist with unique vision of the future of contemporary art and culture. His works have been exhibited internationally at museums and biennales, including the Venice Biennale (2001, 2005), The Museum of Modern Art (New York, 2004), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, 2005), PS1 (New York, 2006), Tate Liverpool (2007), Armory Show (New York, 2014), Long Museum (Shanghai, 2015).
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated 'Xu Zhen [in Chinese] 2013' on the reverse

Long March Space, Beijing
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About Xu Zhen 徐震

Installation, performance, and video artist Xu Zhen combines humor and irony in his works, offering critique of political and art-world systems of human exploitation. Xu’s works, made both individually and (since 2009) through his collective practice MadeIn Company, have been frequently censored due their violent or erotic themes. His 2008 installation The Starving of Sudan featured a live African toddler and a mechanical vulture, installed in a gallery space that had been converted to look like a desolate rural African landscape. Xu is hyper-aware of the contemporary art market and often critiques its norms and structure; although associated with the politically provocative artist Ai Weiwei, Xu attributes a lighter agenda to his work. His piece 8848-1.86 (2005) includes a fictional video documentation of Xu climbing to, and subsequently removing, 1.86 meters of Mt. Everest’s peak. The supposed snowy peak was showcased in a refrigerated vitrine—sincere confusion and sensation ensued, as many believed the work to be literal.

Chinese, b. 1977, Shanghai, China, based in Shanghai, China