Thursday, April 30, 2015

Chen Zhen at Rockbund Art Museum

April 30th - This May, Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai will celebrate its 5th anniversary with an ambitious new exhibition “Chen Zhen: Without going to New York and Paris, life could be internationalised,” which will run from May 30 – October 7, 2015.

Purification Room, 2000-2015, Private Collection, Paris, Courtesy GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins © Chen Zhen / ADAGP, Paris - SACK, Seoul, 2015.

Daily Incantations, 1996, Courtesy de Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins, Photo Tom Powell.

The exhibition will be displayed in RAM’s exquisite heritage Art Deco building on the Shanghai Bund district, which blends a Western architectural style (restored by David Chipperfield prior to opening in 2010) with Chinese decorative elements within Shanghai’s diverse cityscape. This blend reflects Chen Zhen’s own body of work, aiming to generate a powerful resonance and dynamic dialogue within the context of Shanghai as both a Chinese and global city. In conjunction with all of RAM’s programmes, the exhibition has been conceived and curated in close relation to the architectural and curatorial context of the Museum and highlights include Precipitous Parturition, a long sculpture made of bicycle inner tubes that will snake through the upper gallery space.

Organized by RAM, curated by international curator Hou Hanru, with Xu Min, the long-term life and work partner of Chen Zhen, as artistic consultant, the show will feature large-scale installations, as well as sketches and notes by Shanghai-born conceptual artist Chen Zhen (1955–2000). The exhibition will also include an installation from the catalogue Chen Zhen. 1991-2000 Unrealized (Ed. Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, 2007), thanks to the support of RAM in collaboration with the artist’s estate.

Largely recognized as one of the most important Chinese artists of the last two decades, Chen Zhen’s work derives from his personal experience of migrating and working across different continents and cultures.  Chen Zhen drew inspiration from his own life experience, travelling between his native city of Shanghai and Paris, responding to and engaging with contemporary social issues across different cultures.

The new exhibition will focus on Chen Zhen’s travels in and out of Shanghai during the 1990s, reflecting on the rapid changes of social reality within the city at this time. Chen Zhen frequently returned to Shanghai during this period and developed a series of new works responding to the changing social landscape as Shanghai established itself as a new global city. Large scale installations on display, such as Le Bureau de change and Daily Incantations reveal this interest in Shanghai’s urban and socio-economic developments and provide a commentary on the changing daily life Chen Zhen witnessed.

Throughout the exhibition, Chen Zhen’s keen interest in human conditions is presented, from his reflections on his own personal health, seen in the delicate alabaster and crystal sculptures of Zen Garden and Crystal Landscape of Inner Body (Coq), against the backdrop of an ever-changing economic, political and social landscape. Using a range of new and recycled materials, many of the installations include everyday objects that could be found on the streets but have been transformed into performative and site-specific assemblages. Alongside more traditional objects such as Chinese chamber pots and coins, Chen Zhen also worked with new technologies and digital media, marrying cultural heritages with contemporary innovations in order to create a synergy reflective of the contemporary world.

About the Artist
Chen Zhen was born in Shanghai, China in 1955, and died in Paris in 2000. In his home city he attended the Fine Arts and Craft School and the Drama Institute, specializing in set design. After moving to Paris, he studied at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques (where he later became a teacher) between 1986 and 1989. In the course of his career he received various international awards, and showed his work in about a hundred solo and group exhibitions around the world, becoming a prominent figure on the international art scene.

In 1990 he showed his first series of installations. From then on his artistic work dwelt entirely on three major periods of great importance for his own experience and his views on art: the Cultural Revolution, the reform of China and his engagement with the Western world. His work focuses on the relations between human beings, nature and objects; the incommunicability and lack of understanding between human beings; and finally on meditation and therapy. However, he was also interested in architecture and urbanization on a global scale.

About the curator
Hou Hanru is a curator and critic. Born in 1963 in Guangzhou, China, he received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and moved to Paris in 1990. He lived 16 years in France before moving to America in 2006. Based in Paris, San Francisco and Rome, he currently works as Artistic Director of MAXXI, National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome, Italy. He has been consultant to many international institutions. Among about twenty independent curators in the world, Hou is one of the top curators and thinkers.

For the Venice Biennale, the largest art platform in the world, Hou Hanru curated the French Pavilion in 1999, the “Zone Of Urgency” in 2003 and the Chinese Pavilion in 2007. These exhibitions brought him international recognition in the art world. He also worked as a curator at the Shanghai Biennale in 2000.

Hou Hanru co-curated "Cities on the Move" from 1997 to 2000, which involved more than 140 artists, architects and other creators, and toured seven cities around the world, receiving great global attention in the fields of art and architecture.

About RAM
For 5 years RAM has been at the fore-front of the growing contemporary art scene in China, presenting world-class programmes in a unique museum setting. A boutique Museum of the upmost quality, RAM holds a unique position within Shanghai’s continually expanding cultural scene. The Museum is located within the Bund district and housed in an exquisite heritage Art Deco building which was renovated by architect David Chipperfield before opening in 2010.

The museum’s exemplary curatorial, education and research programmes showcase acclaimed and emerging Chinese and international artists, responding to and reflecting on present and urgent challenges of society locally and internationally. RAM presents a bold and pioneering programme of 3 exhibitions per year; exploring and realising artists’ most ambitious projects and working with them to tailor exhibitions to the Museum and to the Shanghai context, often with a large proportion of works being new commissions. RAM devises, produces and curates its programme in-house, in conjunction with carefully selected international collaborations of the highest quality.

This year RAM will celebrate its 5th anniversary, reflecting on its exceptional programme over the past years; acknowledging the museum’s unique position within China’s dynamic contemporary art scene; looking ahead to continuing to develop its pioneering exhibition, education and research programmes; and pursuing its ongoing mission to engage the community to fulfil and grow the social function of the Museum. “Chen Zhen: Without going to New York and Paris, life could be internationalized” will be presented as part of RAM’s 5th anniversary celebrations.

Source: Press release.

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