Artlyst Podcast: Senior Curator Li Qi Discusses Late Chinese Artist Chen Zhen

Artlyst has travelled to Shanghai and spoken to Li Qi, the Senior Curator at Rockbund Art Museum (RAM), on the museum’s latest exhibition celebrating its 5th anniversary with the ambitious new show ‘Chen Zhen: Without going to New York and Paris, life could be internationalised’, curated by international curator Hou Hanru, with Xu Min, the long-term life and work partner of Chen Zhen (1955-2000), as artistic consultant. The show features large-scale installations, as well as sketches and notes by the Shanghai-born conceptual artist.

Image: Chen Zhen / Daily Incantations, Rockbund Museum 2015, Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

Zhen is largely recognised as one of the most important Chinese artists of the last two decades. The artist’s work derives from his personal experience of migrating and working across different continents and cultures. 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.

Image: Chen Zhen / Daily Incantations, Detail, Rockbund Museum 2015, Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

The artist’s keen interest in the human condition is presented throughout the exhibition, often reflections on Zhen’s own personal health at the time, or the external ‘health’ of the environment whether socio-political or physical. Many of the works incorporate a principle of assemblage, taking everyday objects and transforming them, creating signifiers for the artist’s ongoing concerns, often performative or even site-specific. Structures take shape alongside more traditional objects such as the Chinese chamber pots of the work Daily Incantations, discussed by Senior Curator Li Qi.

Image: Chen Zhen / Daily Incantations, Detail, Rockbund Museum 2015, Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

Li also discusses the acclaimed artist’s work Precipitous Parturition, a hanging sculpture created from bicycle tyres to suggest the body of a dragon, with an underbelly spilling a multitude of blackened toy cars, a work asa signifier of China transforming into a kingdom of cars from a realm of bicycles, and a work reflecting on the rapid changes of social reality within the city during the 1990’s. Chen Zhen frequently returned to Shanghai during this period and developed a series of works responding to the changing social landscape as Shanghai established itself as a new global city.

Image: Chen Zhen / Precipitous Parturition, Rockbund Museum 2015, Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

Li Qi is Senior Curator at Rockbund Art Museum (RAM), Shanghai. He was Opinions Editor at The Art Newspaper China and Senior Editor at LEAP, where he currently serves as a contributing editor. In 2014, Li Qi curated “CONDITIONS: An Exhibition of Queer Art,” at club Destination, Beijing’s LGBT terminal. He graduated from Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) with a Bachelor’s degree in Art Management, and from London’s Chelsea College of Art and Design with a Master’s in Curating. Li Qi has worked at institutions such as the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing and the British Film Institute (BFI) in London. He acted as project manager for Hans Ulrich Obrist’s The future will be… China Edition in 2012.

‘Chen Zhen: Without going to New York and Paris, life could be internationalised’ – Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai – until 7 October 2015

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