Xu Zhen (Chinese 徐震), born in 1977, lives and works in Shanghai.
Xu Zhen is a leading figure among the young generation of Chinese artists. His extensive body of work, which includes photography, installation art and video, entails theatrical humor as well as social critique, neither entirely serious nor obviously ironic, evoking moments of complexity. His projects are informed by performance as well as conceptual art. Executed with a critical intelligence, low-tech subtlety and often in forms of theatric pranks, Xu’s work focuses on human sensitivity and dramatizes the humdrum of urban living.
Xu Zhen’s earlier representative individual works include: the video Rainbow (1998), where a man’s back is beaten until it burns red, and yet the hand doing the beating is abstracted; an intuitive sense of the body and of life is hence clearly seen. This work made him the youngest Chinese artist to have participated in the main thematic exhibition of the Venice Biennale. The video Shouting, created in 1998, where on the crowded streets of Shanghai, Xu Zhen suddenly bursts out screaming—the fright and bewilderment in the crowd’s faces, turned backwards, were fully captured. The installation ShanghART Supermarket (2007) recreates a convenience store on-site: the shelves are crammed full of empty products, while the items, sold at their ordinarily marked prices, only have the external shells of their packaging.
His recent pieces survey art ancient and new while fusing Chinese and Western cultures into monumental installations or into new art forms. European Thousand-Hand Classical Sculpture (2014) assembles 19 different Western classical sculptures of various forms; borrowing from the shape of the Thousand-Hand Guanyin (Bodhisattva) in Buddhist iconography, the work dumbfounds the audience’s visual perception. Physique of Consciousness (2011) comprises movements derived from dance, gymnastics, spiritual and cultural rituals. The whole series is composed of more than two hundreds steps and moves inspired from a hundred ceremonies, worships and traditions accumulated through the History of Humanity. Xu Zhen’s curatorial experiments and engagement with an alternative art space BizArt (closed in 2010) complements and extends his conceptual practices. Aside from being an artist, Xu Zhen has actively organizes various art activities and co-curated together with other artists major exhibitions in Shanghai (Art For Sale, 1999; Fan Mingzhen & Fan Mingzhu, 2002; Dial 62761232-Courier Exhibition, 2004; 38 Solo Exhibitions, 2006; The Real Thing: Contemporary from Art China, Tate Liverpool, 2007; Bourgeoisified Proletariat, 2009; My Communism - Poster Exhibition, 2011, etc.). He is also one of the initiators of the contemporary art forum on internet Art-Ba-Ba in 2006.
In 2009, Xu Zhen founded ‘MadeIn Company’, a contemporary art creation corporate, focused on the production of creativity, and devoted to the research of contemporary culture’s infinite possibilities. In 2013, MadeIn Company launched the brand “Xu Zhen” and led MadeIn Company to expand comprehensively in cultural fields—developing curatorial production, research and publications, from galleries to limited-edition artworks. By initiating each of these, he practices what he preaches: the core concept of “producing creativity”.
Xu Zhen has exhibited internationally, at museums and biennales, such as, Venice Biennale (2001, 2005), Lyon Biennial (2013), Asia Pacific Triennial (2012), Guangzhou Triennial (2012), The Museum of Modern Art (New York, 2004), ICP (2004), Mori Art Museum (2005), PS1 (2006), Tate Liverpool (2007) etc. Recent exhibitions include Corporate-Xu Zhen (Produced by MadeIn Company), Kunsthaus Graz (Graz, Austria, 2015), Xu Zhen Solo Exhibition, Long Museum (Shanghai, China, 2015), Xu Zhen-Produced by MadeIn Company, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing, China, 2014), 14 Rooms, Fondation Beyeler (Basel, Switzerland, 2014), Art of Change (Hayward Gallery, London, 2012), 11 Rooms (Manchester International Festival, Manchester City Galleries, 2011), 15 Rooms, Long Museum (Shanghai, China, 2015), Corporate, Graz Kunsthaus, (Graz, Austria, 2015), Bentu: Chinese Artists in a Time of Turbulence and Transformation, Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris, France, 2016) etc.
Xu Zhen won the prize for ‘Best Artist’ at the China Contemporary Art Award in 2004 and ‘Best Artist of the Year’ at the AAC Award in 2014.
His work has been collected by many institutions and private collections worldwide including the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Daimler Collection (Berlin, Germany), The White Rabbit Collection (Chippendale, Australia), the Rubell Family Collection, (Miami, USA), the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon (Lyon, France), the K11 (Shanghai) Collection, the DSL Collection, among others.
In 2014, MadeIn Company founded MadeIn Gallery, a gallery dedicated to the promotion of talented international artists, holding high quality art events and exhibitions, with an accent on contemporary culture development and communication. Located in M50 Shanghai contemporary art district, MadeIn Gallery aims to be a leading independent platform for creativity in China, giving access to the latest artworks of established artists but also to younger and lesser-known talents. MadeIn Gallery was featured in the China Focus Section of the Armory Show in New York in March 2014. On this occasion, detailed images of the series Under Heaven by Xu Zhen, commissioned artist of the Armory, were featured in all the visual promotional materials.
Selected solo exhibitions
- Corporate, Graz Kunsthaus, Graz, Austria
- In Light Of 25 Years - One of Us Is On the Wrong Side of History!, Witte de With, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
- Xu Zhen Solo Exhibition, Long Museum, Shanghai, China
- Xu Zhen-Produced by MadeIn Company: Blissful As Gods, ShanghArt Gallery, Shanghai, China
- Careful Don’t Get Dirty, Patrick Waldburger Gallery, Brussels, Belgium
- Prey, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, France
- Xu Zhen-Produced by MadeIn Company, ShanghART Singapore, Singapore
- Xu Zhen-A MadeIn Company Production, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
- The Most Important Thing Is Not the Contract, OCT, Shanghai, China
- Turbulent, Bund 18 Temporary Space, Shanghai China
- Movement Field - Xu Zhen Solo Exhibiton, produced by MadeIn Company, Long March Space, Beijing China
- Offsite：MadeIn Company, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
- Forbidden Castle, Muzeum Montanelli, Prague, Czech Republic
- MadeIn Company, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China
- Sleeping Life Away, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, France
- The Last Few Mosquitos, WHERE? , Vancouver Canada
- Action of Consciousness, ShanghART Gallery & H Space, Shanghai
- Physique of Consciousness, Long March Space, Beijing
- Physique of Consciousness, Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland
- Don’t Hang Your Faith on The Wall, Long March Space, Beijing
- Seeing One's Own Eyes, IKON Gallery, Birmingham, UK
- There are new species! What do you suppose they are called? , Fabien Fryns Fine Art, Los Angeles, U.S.A.
- Spread-by MadeIn, ShanghART Beijing, Beijing, China
- Spread—New Exhibition Produced by MadeIn, ShanghART at Huaihai Rd 796, Shanghai, China
- MadeIn -- Seeing One's Own Eyes europalia.china, S.M.A.K., Gent, Belgium
- Lonely Miracle: Middle East Contemporary Art Exhibition, James Cohan Gallery, New York, USA
- Seeing One's Own Eyes—Middle East Contemporary Art Exhibition-Space, ShanghART Gallery and ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai
- The Last Few Mosquitos, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, U.K.
- Impossible is Nothing, Long March Space, Beijing, China
- Xu Zhen, Folkert de Jong, Martha Colburn, James Cohan Gallery, New York
- Just Did It, James Cohan Gallery, New York
- In Just the Blink of an Eye, James Cohan Gallery with PERFORMA, New York
- Art '38 Basel, Art Unlimited-Xu Zhen 18 Days (at B3), Art Fair Switzerland
- 8848 - 1.86, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai
- 8848 - 1.86, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
- An Animal, 2577 Longhua Road, Xuhui district, Shanghai
- Careful, Don't Get Dirty, Galerie Waldburger, Berlin, Germany
- A Young Man, Bizart, Shanghai
- Xu Zhen: Lonely Miracle: Middle East Contemporary Art Exhibition
- Hickling, Alfred (28 March 2007). "Great leap forward". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
-  MadeIn Company website
-  MadeIn Gallery website
-  Art-Ba-Ba contemporary art forum
- ShanghART Gallery Gallery page of the artist
- James Cohan Gallery Works, biography, video clips, articles and reviews.
-  Parkett magazine Vol.96 about Xu Zhen
-  MoMA Interviews 2014
- Performa 2007 Live performance, In Just a Blink of Eye
- Tate Collection Mixed-media installation, 8848 - 1.86
- Xu Zhen at 88MoCCA: The Museum of Chinese Contemporary Art on the Web