Xu Zhen Tapped as Commissioned Artist for the Fifth Edition of the Armory Show
Armory Focus, the curated section of the Armory Show, highlights the gallery and artistic landscape of a chosen geographic region. In March 2014, Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, will curate Armory Focus: China, presenting a broad snapshot of the country’s contemporary cultural practice. In recognition of the dynamism of the Chinese art scene, the Armory Show will offer a select group of galleries the opportunity to present their unique programming, providing a forum for an ever-expanding international conversation at the fair.
On lending his curatorial vision to the project, Philip Tinari notes that “China is central to the makeup of the world system today in ways that are well understood on the level of geopolitics but have not yet been fully elaborated in the realm of culture. The wave of national surveys—the so-called "China Shows"—that introduced the first generation of Chinese artists to New York has come and gone, leaving even a decade later an aftertaste of gaudy, symbolic, often derivative work. This persistent memory clouds efforts by individual actors to illuminate the dynamism, seriousness, and originality of the Chinese art scene and system today. This section aims to change that.”
Noah Horowitz, executive director of the Armory Show, states, “Just as Focus: China hopes to showcase the strength and diversity of players who now make up the cultural scene there, it also seeks to complicate and destabilize prevailing Western notions about the country’s artistic situation. The project ultimately aims to demonstrate that China is not just a site for great new art, but a place where current art world models are being made and remade, and where serious collecting is happening at an ever larger scale. We are honored to collaborate with such a visionary curator as Philip on this project and look forward to presenting the results of his extensive efforts at the fair next March.”
Aiming to showcase the diversity of both artistic production and the art system in China, the section will include curated presentations by some twenty artists coming from diverse generational and regional backgrounds, ranging from the "Stars" generation of the late 1970s through the booming post-Mao generation born after 1975. A program of talks will elaborate some of the key issues for contemporary art in China today, from the development of the institutional infrastructure to the ongoing diversification of the Chinese market.
The Armory Show has also announced that Chinese artist Xu Zhen has been chosen as the commissioned artist for its 2014 edition. An extensive body of conceptual work spanning video, installation, performance, and photography, Xu’s mercurial practice embodies the diversity and dynamism of contemporary art in China today. As Noah Horowitz notes, “Over the past decade, Xu Zhen has firmly established himself as one of the most insightful provocateurs of a younger generation of Chinese contemporary artists. We are thrilled to collaborate with him as the 2014 Commissioned Artist and through this initiative look forward to extending our fair’s legacy as a site for international dialogue and critical debate."
“I am very honored to be named the 2014 Armory Show Commissioned Artist. The fair offers a strong platform for exchange and for dialogue around art, the market, and its many interrelated institutions and ideas," says Xu Zhen.
Xu Zhen is also the subject of a large-scale survey exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, opening on January 18, 2014. The show marks UCCA’s largest presentation of a Chinese artist’s work for 2014. Highlights from Xu's fifteen-year career as well as significant new works will be displayed in an axial, architectural configuration of the artist's design without a strict chronology. Containing more than forty works and several major installations, the exhibition will offer the most comprehensive look yet at the multivalent and diverse practice of one of China's most innovative artists.
On Xu’s selection as the 2014 Armory Show Commissioned Artist, Tinari notes, “Xu Zhen’s participation will further activate many crucial questions meant to be raised by Armory Focus: China. Throughout his career, Xu Zhen has been at the forefront of critical thinking about the role of art and artists in contemporary China, engaging smartly and humorously with many of the big issues facing cultural production there today. It is also particularly thrilling that this year’s Armory Focus: China coincides with Xu Zhen’s major mid-career survey exhibition at UCCA."
Philip Tinari is director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. There he oversees an exhibition program devoted to established figures and rising talents both Chinese and international, aimed at UCCA's annual public of more than half a million visitors. Prior to joining UCCA he was editor-in-chief of LEAP, the international art magazine of contemporary China, which he founded and ran from 2009 to 2011. He has worked as China representative for Art Basel, contributing editor to Artforum, and lecturer in art criticism at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. Tinari, who speaks fluent Mandarin, holds degrees from Duke and Harvard, and was a Fulbright fellow at Peking University.
Xu Zhen (b. 1977) is a Shanghai-based conceptual artist. His multimedia practice highlights and deconstructs norms and taboos within Chinese society, often deploying an incisive or ironic tone. In June 2009, he established MadeIn Company, a contemporary art creation company 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.” Xu has exhibited prominently in many other international exhibitions and biennials, including the Venice Biennale (2001, 2005), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004), Mori Art Museum (2005), PS1 (2006), Tate Liverpool (2007), Hayward Gallery (2012), and Lyon Biennale (2013). In addition to his artwork, Xu is involved in a variety of projects within the Chinese art world, including curatorial experiments, alternative art spaces, and the online contemporary art forum Art-Ba-Ba.
Armory Focus was initiated in 2010 to highlight the contemporary gallery and artistic landscape from a specific geographic region. This unique section of the fair has quickly become one of the defining features of the Armory Show, presenting a survey of a region’s contemporary cultural practices as framed by a singular curatorial vision.
Armory Focus booths are located in a dedicated section on Pier 94 and associated projects will be presented throughout the fair. Talks and lectures will also be organized around topics pertinent to Armory Focus: China as part of the Armory Show’s popular Open Forum program of panels.
The Armory Show, a leading international contemporary and modern art fair and one of the most important annual art events in New York, takes place every March on Piers 92 & 94 in central Manhattan. The Armory Show is devoted to showcasing the most important artworks of the 20th and 21st centuries. In its fifteen years, the fair has become an international institution, combining a selection of the world's leading galleries with an exceptional program of arts events and exhibitions throughout New York during the celebrated Armory Arts Week.