The Zegna store in Bund 18 is gone. It's been gutted and converted into a temporary canvas for some world renowned graffiti artists.
This month, Bund 18
celebrates its tenth anniversary. Having concluded their ten-year leases, tenants Cartier and Ermenegildo Zegna have bounced, leaving empty stores with boarded up ground floor windows. New tenants have been found for the spaces, but whatever’s replacing the Zegna store – it’s a secret – isn’t due to launch for weeks. In the meantime the owners have given up the space to over a dozen international street artists, six of whom have already created some phenomenal and phenomenally messy work inside the heritage building.
They’ve been going at it since October 20, and right now the place is full of de Montana spray paint, cans of “Tanks quality spray”, assorted bottles of paint, tins of Dulux, 3M fume masks, ladders, and plastic baggies full of lime green nozzles.
The project, called “Look Through”, is being led by gallerist Magda Danysz, who has brought many street artists to the city over the years, including Portuguese chiseler VHILS
and paper paste TED Talker JR
. New York’s Jonone was the first graffiti artist Danysz showed as director of Bund 18 gallery back in 2009, and he has a prime spot inside the door of the former Zegna store for this exhibition.
Jonone is an old skool tagger, writing his name again and again with a calligrapher’s obsession for form and flow. He’s abandoned the spray can for these works, preferring to slosh paint directly onto the wall or apply it thick and wet with a brush. Because writing his name hundreds of times isn’t enough of a calling card, he decided to also leave his paint-spattered sneakers behind, which are raised on blocks like a car whose tires have been jacked.
Parisian artist Kartre (a misspelling of the French for “four”) created this 3D installation alongside the Jonone work. Kartre explored the city with MD Gallery staff, photographing some dilapidated and demolished housing and looting trash and rubble from the sites to recreate representations of them on the Bund. The methodology is reminiscent of VHILS and JR, but the frozen explosion thing more closely resembles Chinese conceptual artist Cai Guo-qiang’s kabooming cars
San Franciscan artist Poesia created this powerful, gestural piece with a mix of media including black chalk, Chinese ink, spray paint, and scraps of paper. The addition of that turquoise bench is a nice touch, encouraging visitors to sit down and yield to the work the way you would to a Jackson Pollock in a museum. Poesia himself sat in front of the work for a long time before deciding it needed that thread of light, a nod to the energy of the city, which elevates the whole thing, despite being held in place by nothing but masking tape. It’s probably the standout work so far, as progressive as you’d hope from an artist who calls himself a Graffuturist.
Upstairs, Parisian artist Ludo has created cyborg flowers with cog, chain and engine faces, the piece in the center shopped to suggest a dollar sign. The message is obvious: invest in the mechanization of plant life, like those solar powered plastic plants that bob up down. Those are really something.
In addition to these major walls, André, who is also based in Paris, has romped through the building painting his signature character, “Mr A”, who resembles Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc. That orange atom is by New Yorker Futura, whose solo show at MD Gallery
“Kinetic Action” continues through December 6.
The Bund 18 exhibition doesn’t open to the public until November 18, but by today (Tuesday, November 10) the windows onto the street and into the building’s foyer should be open to the public. Two 177cm Sharp LCD screens will also be on view, playing video of the artists creating past works. These new works are being documented too, with still and video camera operators following the goings on and time lapse cameras standing sentry, shooting a frame every 30 seconds.
New artists are arriving in phases, staying for a week or 10 days until they've all made their contributions. Tanc, who creates strong geometric forms using masking tape, and L’Atlas, who has developed a “GPS” technique (which stands for Ground Print Style), had just arrived when we visited. The two share a studio in Paris. “We are the third eye of each other,” L’Atlas says.
The artists yet to join the fray are: Nasty, Thomas Canto, Katre, Psy, Yz, Seth and – helping make the obvious limitations on spontaneous expression in China a little less conspicuous – Shanghai artist Popil. That there's just one local graffiti artist of note in a city where graffiti is tolerated on just one wall is hardly a surprise. Here’s hoping she does something like sunshine from blue skies or a breeze in spring to inspire our minds
, warm our hearts, cultivate our tastes and—especially because I'm finishing this article in a League of Legends
dungeon somewhere in Shenzen—clean our undesirable work styles.