He Xiangyu

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He Xiangyu
Kuandian, Liaoning, China
EducationShenyang Normal University
Known forPainting, Installation
Notable work
Coca-Cola Project, Tank Project

He Xiangyu (Chinese: 何翔宇; born 1986 in Kuandian, China) is a contemporary artist based in Berlin and Beijing.


He Xiangyu graduated from the Oil Painting Department of Shenyang Normal University in 2008 with a bachelor's degree. His work has been featured in major group exhibitions worldwide, including Fire and Forget at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany (2015[1]); 13e Biennale de Lyon, Lyon, France (2015); Social Factory – 10th Shanghai Biennale, Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China (2014);[2] 28 Chinese, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA (2013); ON|OFF China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2013). His most recent solo exhibitions include Dotted Line, White Space Beijing, Beijing, China (2014); He Xiangyu, White Cube, London, UK (2014); CROSSED BELIEFS, SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan (2013).

His works have been in public collections include: Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA; Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Switzerland; Pinault Collection, France; White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, Australia; Domus Collection, USA; Boros Collection, Berlin, Germany; Long Museum, Shanghai, China; Mercator Foundation, Essen, Germany; Artron Art Museum, Shenzhen, China; M WOODS Museum, Beijing, China; Sishang Museum, Beijing, China.

In 2014, He was a finalist in the "Future Generation Art Prize", Victor Pinchuk Foundation, Kiev, Ukraine[3]


He's art is centered on investigating and engaging with the operating mechanisms and structural relationships of current social systems.[4] He first garnered attention for his large-scale works, such as "The Coca Cola Project" and "Tank Project", which explore both objects and symbols from everyday life.[5] Through either a physical or conceptual transformation, his works generate a direct and provocative statement while triggering various interpretations and experiences. Since Everything We Create is Not Ourselves in 2013, He has begun to further explore his artistic experiments but from a different perspective and dimension; he has turned from the production of symbols in the visual world to the sensation and inspection of the inner world, emphasizing the universality of art based on the body and the imagination born of it.[6]

Coca-Cola Project[edit]

The Coca Cola Project, initiated in early 2009 and completed at the end of 2011, began when the artist bought one ton of Coca-Cola at a large supermarket. He then proceeded to construct a "kitchen" in his studio, and during this time made numerous sketches and conducted various related experiments.[7] At the end of 2009, the artist decided to move the operation to Dandong, Liaoning Province, a city that borders North Korea. It is at this location where the artist employed ten workers who together fabricated ten iron vessels within a site structure. The structure was built using over ten tons of lumber and featured waterproof canopies. Working on the project uninterruptedly for over one and a half years, which totaled more than 6000 man-hours, the artist and his team ultimately cooked 127 tons of Coca Cola and extracted 40 cubic meters of cooked residue.[8] What astonished the artist was that during the process of extraction, a range of groups—which included public security, firefighters, border control, and environmental organizations—all came to investigate, inspect and collect evidence, which ultimately led to the artist incurring fees and fines.

Tank Project[9][edit]

Tank Project began in late 2011 and was completed in early 2013. The prototype of the tank, tank model T34, was found near an army base positioned at the frontier between North Korea and China. This specific tank model has been used as the primary tank within China’s armed forces and has also been the same tank that was used during sensitive incidents in China’s recent history. Since large-scale measuring tools are widely unavailable, He had to coordinate a team to sneak into the army base in the middle of the night to measure portions of the tank by hand. It took four months to determine all the measurements of the tank, culminating in corresponding plans designed from these very measurements that were detailed and meticulous enough to reproduce an actual tank. Using high grade vegetable tanned leather, an "outer-coat" was made using the dimensions and proportions from the plans slightly scaled up. Along with 35 workers, the Tank Project took two years to complete, using more than 250 full-scale leather hides and 50,000 meters of wax string. The finished work weighs over 2 tons. The Tank Project also includes the corresponding interviews, diagrams, and video.

Oral Project: Everything We Create is Not Ourselves[edit]

Starting from 2012, He started the conceptualization of his on-going series of paintings, titled Everything We Create is Not Ourselves. The inspiration was derived from the sensation he experienced while using his tongue to touch the roof of the mouth and he attempted to visualize the sensation through a series of paintings. The artist also engaged in dialogue with psychologists, philosophers and linguists to discuss this simple but often over-looked sensory experience and how such simple sensation transcends itself into the foundation of human experience.[10]

Because oral is intrinsically linked to the body, we know that the inside and outside is relative to each other in which both are a kind of inner joy, to mobilize your senses. For example, the senses are developed from mobilizing the substance itself to gain pleasure from Coca-Cola or olive oil, it is a kind of illusion, forged emotion or a desire stimulated within the body. This cannot control the quality of the substance, neither can control what the viewer will see or sense at particular time, but at least through this illusion we can understand the world without an exterior. Everything We Create is not Ourselves is based on experimentations of the thought of an oral organic living substance inside the body, and the artist cannot apply past experience and judgement during the experiment as an individual changes every day, just like olive oil dripping on the wall.


Selected Solo Exhibition[edit]

Year Title Location
2015 Dotted Line III WHITE SPACE BEIJING, Beijing, China
2015 New Directions: He Xiangyu Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
2015 He Xiangyu Bischoff Projects, Frankfurt, Germany
2014 Dotted Line I WHITE SPACE BEIJING, Beijing, China
2014 He Xiangyu White Cube Gallery, London, UK[11]
2013 CROSSED BELIEFS, SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan[12]
2012 HE XIANG YU WHITE SPACE BEIJING, Beijing, China[13]
2012 A4 Young Artist Experimental Season 2nd Round Exhibition A4 Contemporary Arts Center, Chengdu, China[14]
2012 Cola Project 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia[15]
2011 The Death of Marat Künstlerhaus Schloß Balmoral, Bad Ems, Germany
2010 The Coca Cola Project WALL Art Museum, Beijing, China
2008 The Origin of Everything RAAB art Gallery, Beijing, China
2008 The Illusion of Dongba Shenyang Normal University, Shenyang, China
2005 Thoughts Surging in the Heart Shenyang Normal University, Shenyang, China

Selected Group Exhibitions[edit]

Year Title Location
2016 Chinese Whispers Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland
2015 Fire and Forget. On Violence Kunst-Werke Institute, Berlin, Germany
2013 Criss-Cross Long Museum, Shanghai, China
2013 28 Chinese Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA
2013 Inter-Vision. A Contemporary Exhibition Across The Strait The National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China
2013 FUCK OFF II Groninger Museum, Groninger, Netherland
2013 Inter-Vision. A Contemporary Exhibition Across The Strait National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan
2013 ON/OFF Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
2012 Get it louder The Orange at Sanlitun Village, Beijing, China
2012 2012 Shanghai Sculpture Programme---Life Latitude Shanghai Painting & Sculpture Institute, Shanghai, China
2012 Examples to follow! Expeditions in aesthetics and sustainability Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
2012 Maximalism in Contrasts Hill Wood Art Museum, Long Island University, New York, USA
2011 Shanshui – Poetry without Sound? Landscape in Chinese Contemporary Art Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland
2011 Artistes Chinois / Artistes Marseillais / Correspondances? L’Alcazar Bibliothèque de Marseille, France
2011 DAS ICH IM ANDEREN Mercator Foundation, Essen, Germany MIND
2011 SPACE: Maximalism in Contrasts Frick Art Museum, University of Pittsburgh, USA
2010 Reshaping History Today art Museum, Beijing, China
2010 Exhibition of Asian Abstract Art 501 Art Gallery, Chongqing, China
2009 Indoor Service Molang Art Space, Xi’an, China
2009 School of Image --Century Mind Today Art Museum, Beijing, China
2009 Beautiful City The International Art Exchange Center, Taipei, China
2008 Chinese Yong Artists Exhibition Austria’s Capital Shengboerteng St. City Hall, Austria
2007 The Modern Oil Painting Exhibition Sangshan Museum, Shenzhen