UCCA Beijing

The Power of Nature: A Ten Thousand Square Meter Painting in Beijing



Location:  Beijing Workers’ Stadium

On May 18, in Beijing Workers’ Stadium, UCCA collaborates with Zhao Yao to present “The Power of Nature: A Ten Thousand Square Meter Painting in Beijing.” Zhao produced this installation, some 116 meters tall by 86 meters wide, over a three-year period, unfurling it in an uninhabited mountainous area of China, and subjecting it to the fluctuations of sun and wind. He has since “recycled” the work, uninstalling and shipping it back to Beijing. This marks the first time the installation has been shown since reaching the city.

Realized from 2016 to 2017, this monumental installation is a continuation of Zhao’s 2013 solo exhibition at Pace Gallery (London), “Spirit Above All,” and the patterns that decorate its surface are based on the earlier exhibition’s brain-teaser-inspired A Painting of Thought. Designed and manufactured in Beijing, The Power of Naturewas shipped in October of 2016 to a remote, mountainous area, where, the following month, 150 farmers used an entire day’s labor to mount it on a snow-capped peak. There, 5,000 meters above sea level, it was buffeted by wind and snow, soaked with sunlight and starlight. Six months later, its bright colors were faded, and its surface crisscrossed with marks from nature, reminding viewers of Goethe’s words in The Sorrows of Young Werther: “[nature] alone is inexhaustible, and capable of forming the greatest masters.” In May 2017, the artwork was uninstalled and shipped back to Beijing, where, on May 18 of this year, it will be shown in its entirety in Workers’ Stadium. This new, modern setting in the heart of the capital will infuse the painting with new history, culture, values and memories. Through “The Power of Nature,” Zhao Yao hopes to kindle the audience’s yearning for the natural world, its staunch belief in human will.

One of the “Ten Great Buildings” constructed on the tenth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, Beijing Workers’ Stadium has more than stood the test of time and weather in the following six decades. On the dawn of May 18, Zhao’s installation will be shipped to the Stadium. With the city as background, and the lights of the Stadium as foil, it will once more be unfurled by a team of more than 50 technicians. The different blocks of color on its surface will compliment the bright, industrial tones of the seats, reminding audiences of the interplay between nature and modern society. Flanked by the towering buildings of the Central Business District, the artwork demonstrates the power of humans in concert with the natural world. What began as a “meaningless pattern” gains new layers of significance, enters new contexts, and expands its boundaries.

Installation Views

Installation Views

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About the Exhibition

This project would not have been possible without support from Beijing Commune. Beijing Workers’ Stadium has generously provided a space for this project to be realized. Jing-A Brewing Co. has provided support for the event.

Since its founding, UCCA has worked together with leading artists and institutions to present art in various spaces outside of 798, allowing viewers from different parts of China to experience and participate in contemporary urban culture.

About the Artist

Zhao Yao (b. 1981, Luzhou, Sichuan Province, China, lives and works in Beijing), is a graduate of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. His solo exhibitions include: “The Last Egg” (Beijing Commune, 2016); “Zhao Yao - Painting of Thought” (Pace Gallery, Hong Kong, 2015); “Spirit Above All” (Pace Gallery, London, 2013); “You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me” (Beijing Commune, 2012); “Zhao Yao: I am Your Night” (Beijing Commune, 2011); and “51 m2: 3# Zhao Yao” (Taikang Space, Beijing, 2009). His work has been included in group exhibitions such as “Frontier Vision-Regional Topology and Politics of Post-Globalization” (OCAT Shanghai, 2017-2018); “Information Sculpture Superhighway” (MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai, 2016); “ON | OFF: China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice” (UCCA, Beijing, 2013); and “Curated by MadeInCompany, GUEST: Standing on the Shoulders of Little Clowns” (UCCA, Beijing, 2012). His artwork has also been exhibited by PinchukArtCenter (Kiev, Ukraine, 2013); ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (Berlin, Germany, 2013); Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam, Netherlands, 2014); Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 2014); and Whitechapel Gallery (London, 2015).

About UCCA

UCCA is China's leading independent institution of contemporary art. Founded in 2007 out of a commitment to bring Chinese contemporary art into global dialogue, it has since become a cultural landmark for Beijing, a conduit for international exchange, and an incubator for new talent. Located at the heart of the 798 Art District, it welcomes more than one million visitors a year. Originally known as the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, UCCA underwent a major restructuring in 2017 and now operates as the UCCA Group, comprising two distinct entities: UCCA Foundation, a registered non-profit that organizes exhibitions and research, stages public programs, and undertakes community outreach; and UCCA Enterprises, a family of art-driven retail and educational ventures. UCCA's work grows from its core belief that new art can change lives, broaden perspectives, and enrich the conversation between China and the world.