Beijing Beat blog with Mark Godfrey

Beijing Beat

Factory Man: artist Zheng Guo Gu

Jan 16

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1/16/2008 3:51 AM  RssIcon

Chinese artist moves a full factory, workers and all, from south China up to Beijing for his solo show
Conceptual southerner Zheng Guo Gu, still blushing from the attention he got at Documenta 2007 in Kassel (Germany), is bringing a factory - dust, tools and oily vices - from his Yangjiang hometown in Guandong province to the Tang Contemporary gallery in Beijing this month.
 
Workers will travel too from. Real life and real-sized sculptures of workers will mingle in the show, a social commentary, which runs from January 19 to February 28. Zheng showed at the Venice Biennale and Documenta 2007 in Kassel, Germany.
 
Represented in galleries around the world, 38 year old Zheng, unlike most of his contemporaries, drawn to China's cultural capital, stayed away from Beijing after graduating from the printing school at the Guangzhou Art Academy and rather spent the 1990s in Yangjiang crafting a reputation for experimental photography, scrolls and installations.
 
His stay was made more bearable by the proximity to Hong Kong, purchasing centre for Chinese art before Beijing became the default Asia address of the world’s contemporary art dealers. Zheng’s solo work and collaborations with a hometown “calligraphy team” were duly recognized. Circumspect about modern advertising and materialism, the cropped-headed artist mused on the infinity of material objects with a collection of metal bottles he took to Saatchi’s London gallery The Revolution Continues: New Chinese Art show in 2007.
 
The Saatchi curator’s notes said of Zheng: “The memory of the heaviness of the rice flour on the back that he carried home after queuing for hours in the early morning to buy in his childhood is mixed with his exhilaration over the endless supplies of goods and the unsubtle and constant bombardment of advertising today.”
 
Zheng’s work fits into the vein of recent shows at the Tang Contemporary, one of Beijing’s largest gallery spaces. Tang sells to a largely Asian customer base: the outsized installation style of exhibits preferred by the gallery are a challenge for casual buyers. “We do academic art shows,” Katherine, who runs the gallery, told me.
 
Heavily conceptual shows like the recent Border of Utopia are sponsored by the gallery. The gallery’s Chinese owners ran the parent gallery for ten years in Bangkok, showing mostly Southeast Asian artists, before opening the larger Beijing space in 2006. Thai artists shown at a recent group show were all Documenta/Venice veterans and have sold to MOMA collections. A new Tang Contemporary gallery set to open in Hong Kong will focus on Japanese and Korean artists.
 

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