UCCA Beijing

Michael Chow: Voice for My Father

2015.1.23 - 2015.3.22

Four Seasons (Autumn) (detail)

2013-2014

Mixed media: house paint, precious metals, and trash on canvas

373 x 267 x 20 cm

Photo: Fredrick Nilsen

About

Location:  Lobby, Nave and Long Gallery

The story of Michael Chow (b. 1939, Shanghai) is that of an improbable icon, a global cultural actor decades before globalization became the norm. Chow is the son of Zhou Xinfang, celebrated Beijing opera master and founder of the Qi School of performance. Frustrated in his youthful ambitions to either follow in his father’s footsteps or carve out a space for himself within the London contemporary art scene, dreams cultivated in equal parts by his schooling at the Saint Martin’s School of Art and his father’s theatrical tutelage, Chow opened the first of his chic Chinese restaurants in London in 1968. Today, MR CHOW operates in six locations around the world and has become synonymous with both high-end Chinese cuisine and the diverse set of artists and cultural luminaries for whom the restaurant was (and remains) a social hub. Returning to fine art practice after a forty-six-year hiatus, Chow adopts a style as dynamic and eclectic as his history—one that embodies, physically and symbolically, a distinctly Chinese twentieth-century cosmopolitanism.

The exhibition comprises three sections. Twelve of Michael Chow’s paintings are dispersed throughout the Lobby, Nave, and Long Gallery. Chow’s style reflects the visual traditions of Chinese art, Western abstract expressionism, and, perhaps most significantly, the bold gestures of Qi School Beijing opera. Composed of household paint, precious metals, and kitchen errata, this “Qi School Expressionism” evokes a visceral sense of movement and object while conveying the artist’s passion for his father and his native culture. Linking the artist’s practice to his longstanding engagement with the contemporary art communities of New York and LA, the exhibition also contains several works from Chow’s portrait collection. These works, hainging in the Long Gallery, includes pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Urs Fischer, and many others, bearing witness to his friendship with and support of these artists from the 1960s onward. Also occupying the Long Gallery are more than one hundred archival photos of Zhou Xinfang and his performances. The Qi School of Beijing opera that he conceived has become a way of life for Michael Chow. Seen as both an artistic institution and a microcosm for a larger movement, the evolution of the Qi School reflects the complex history and cultural memory of modern China.

The UCCA presentation of “Michael Chow: Voice for My Father” coincides with the 120th anniversary of Zhou Xinfang’s birth. The show will travel to the Power Station of Art, Shanghai, in April, 2015, and to the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, in 2016. Exhibition support is provided by Gucci.

chow-web

The Artist as Collector

Years of drifting in London forced Michael Chow to give up his dream of taking up Zhou Xinfang’s legacy. However, his life abroad opened up a new world of artistic activities. Among the pieces of modern and contemporary art Chow has acquired over fifty years, his portrait collection is perhaps the most acclaimed. Chow has worked with more than 20 artists since his first portrait by Pop artist Peter Blake in 1966. The portraits vary dramatically in style and medium, documenting the distinctive personal history of Michael Chow while acting as a narrative thread within contemporary art history. The portraits include works by some of the bestknown modern and contemporary artists from the 1960s onward, each incorporating elements from Chow’s life and career. The portrait collection makes visible a set of perspectives on the intersection and coexistence of East and West at a certain historical place and time, a portrait of both the artists and their shared subject.

The archival photographs on display document the history of Chow’s family through the illustrious figure of Zhou Xinfang. Zhou performed over 600 hundred different plays in his lifetime, and his Qi School of performance remains a prominent style of Beijing opera. 2015 marks the 120th anniversary of Zhou Xinfang’s birth, and the photos shown here memorialize this important figure in modern Chinese cultural history.

About the Artist

Michael Chow (b. 1939, Shanghai) attended Saint Martin’s School of Art and had a brief career in painting until the late 1960s when he opened the restaurant MR CHOW in London’s Knightsbridge. With encouragement from close friend Jeffrey Deitch, Chow began painting once again after a forty-six-year hiatus. He held a solo exhibition last year at Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong entitled “Recipe for a Painter.” His UCCA exhibition is his first solo show in Mainland China.

Download “Michael Chow: Voice for My Father” press release.

News

“Chinese esthetics is rooted in expansive stretches of white punctuated with at times dense collections of material, creating a vision of Chinese ink-and-brush painting. From an early age he was immersed in the highest forms of Chinese culture, and it's an influence that he carries with him to this day..”
—China Daily

“For Chow, his return to painting might be just a desire to rewrite the ending of his life’s movie script. But for China and its contemporary art scene, Chow sets an example of re-invention. In fact, Chow’s rise in life and in art might set a new trajectory for China’s cultural rebirth.. ”
—New York Times

Works in the exhibition

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Julian Schnabel

Eva Holding a Miniature Amulet of Michael

1998
Oil on canvas
274.5 x 259 cm
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

Julian Schnabel

Portrait

1985
Oil and plate on panel
183 x 152.5 cm
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

Keith Haring

Mr. Chow as Green Prawn in a Bowl of Noodle

1986
Acrylic on tarpaulin
254 x 254 cm
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Portrait

1985
Acrylic and oil stick on canvas
218.5 x 172.5 cm
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

Ed Ruscha

Mr. Chow L.A.

1973
Mixed media on canvas
254 x 254 cm
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

Andy Warhol

Portrait

1985
Polymer silkscreened on canvas
Diptych, 102 x 102 cm (each)
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

Ed Ruscha

Zhou Xinfang

1982
Acrylic on canvas
51 x 61 cm
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

Peter Blake

Frisco and Lorenzo Wong and Wildman Michael Chow

1966
Collage and mixed media painting on wood
205.5 x 68.5 x 10 cm
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

Urs Fischer

Michael Chow Wax Protrait

2014
Paraffin Wax, microcrystalline wax, encaustic pigment, oil paint, mild steel, wicks
185 x 55 x 51 cm
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

Alex Israel

As it Lays—Michael Chow

2012
Video
10′11″
Collection of Michael Chow
Photo: Eric Powell

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Installation Views

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