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Weekend In Art: PIMO, ART021, KTV Takeover

Stimulation and edification in Shanghai arts this weekend..
2015-11-20 21:06:48
There's three big-deal contemporary art affairs on this weekend, all related, and ranging in insanity from a polished art fair at that Russian building in Jing'an by some of Shanghai's youngest, wealthiest collectors, to next-level performance art and access to over a dozen art studios in Songjiang, to an opening party and show by a "virtual reality persona" / soft drink / minor pop star in a sleazy KTV owned by a rich art collector out in Minhang. It's good -- people are pushing culture this weekend, in downtown, and far out where the grass grows taller and the trucks drive faster.

Here's what's up with all that:

PIMO Contemporary Art Festival

Happening daily through Nov 23 @ MadeIn Songjiang, with performances at 1pm and 4pm

Take one young Chinese mega-collector plus one superstar artist and what do you get? Surprisingly enough, a totally down-to-earth, community-centric -- not to mention FREE -- art festival currently happening in a decidedly unglitzy part of Songjiang.

PIMO Contemporary Art Festival is the brainchild of David Chau and Xu Zhen. Between them, they present quite the arts powerhouse: having started collecting back in 2003, Chau went on to back the excellent Leo Xu Projects and Antenna Space galleries, as well as setting up ART021 art fair. He’s also the founder of an apparently very successful fleet management company, Metropolis International Leasing. Xu Zhen, meanwhile, has been a huge deal since 2001 when he became one of the first Chinese artists to participate in the Venice Biennale. In 2013, he declared himself CEO of MadeIn Company. An art production outfit (of his own works), it challenges and explores the market through issues of commodification. Blurring parameters even further, MadeIn Company launched the Xu Zhen brand in 2013. Yup: it’s confusing. Go with it.

Anyway, Chau and Xu Zhen founded the PIMO brand last year. At ART021, their prints, t-shirts, panties, and accessories sold like hotcakes. Unashamedly sans clear remit, 2015 has seen PIMO take steps towards establishing itself as a platform for art, with quality content -- as opposed to commercial endeavors -- at its heart.

The festival’s happening way out in Songjiang, but just a 20rmb cab from Sijing metro on Line 9. Straddling Shenzhuan Highway, it comprises three main parts, the hands-down highlight of which is something called Inventing Ritual. The curators are adamant: this is not a performance, nor is it an exhibition. In reality, it’s a little of both: a choreographed sequence of works by 28 artists spanning performance, spoken word, installation and film, the 45-minute long affair is absorbing, sometimes freaky and a bit bonkers. Case in point, Shi Yong and his customized zimmer frame-like contraption, "Sleepwalking"; or Zheng Guogu’s deep-fried vechicle. The ritual happens everyday at 1pm and 4pm. Dense and entertaining, it’s a fresh format that engages.

Just over the highway is the exhibition component of the festival: the launch of Chau’s Cc Foundation (two works by Lu Pingyuan and Paul Chen), and Shanghai’s second MadeIn gallery. This one’s more of a by-appointment affair for collectors visiting the offices and production facility, and right now shows works by up-and-comers UMA, Ding Li - and of course, Xu Zhen. The section’s good to see, but the lesser draw of what’s on show here. More interesting are open studios by some 14 contemporary Chinese artists. A fantastic opportunity for a behind-the-scenes glimpse and maybe chats with an artist or few, there’s a good couple hours of art-watching right there.

Definitely go: PIMO -- and Songjiang -- are ones to watch.

- Frances Arnold


Happening Sat & Sun @ Shanghai Exhibition Center; 150rmb

If PIMO fest is all whitewashed studios, dodging trucks on Shenzhuan Highway, and eating chuanr on the opening night, ART021 is the polar opposite. And yet, their common denominator goes beyond, y’know, art: set up by none other than David Chau, it's run by Kelly Ying alongside PR honcho Bao Yifeng.

Now in its third edition, ART021 has moved up from its former Rockbund locale to Shanghai Exhibition Center. It just got too big, Kelly told us earlier this year. Most gallerists seem happy with the change of venue; others associate it with ghost of art fairs past (looking at you, SHContemporary).

Slick, smart and polished, ART021 has fast won hearts -- of galleries, and judging by preview day, plenty of international collectors. But if buying’s not your bag, there’s still lots to see here. There’s 75 galleries all in all, divvied up between Main Galleries and something called 1+1 Projects -- basically a selection of small-scale solos. Highlights of the latter section include French photographer and TED Prize winner JR over at Magda Danysz Gallery, and a Yuko Mohair’s intricate Circus in the Ground installation at Meta Gallery.

Drawing the crowds is international heavyweight Gagosian Gallery, participating at the fair for the first time this year. You can’t miss "Urs Fischer’s Big Foot", which is exactly that, stomped down in the centre of their downstairs booth.

All big name artists, do seek out a gorgeous paint on paper work by American minimalist, Richard Serra. Elsewhere, Beijing and Taipei-based Tina Kang Gallery showcases a sweet series by rising Chinese talent, Peng Wei. Her delicate and somehow ethereal painted shoes are particularly lovely.

Long March (A-17), too, is good for a look, especially for Chen Tianzhou’s tapestry of New Zealand wool. Better known for his outlandish performances and trippy films, this work’s still pleasingly wacky: a multi-armed, multi-boobed woman clutching bloody decapitated heads. Xu Zhen also makes an appearance with his lurid cupcake frosting-esque Under Heaven. (Incidentally, we counted no fewer than three editions at ART021 of pretty much exactly the same work). In the same section, do go smile at Ink Studio’s (A-24) Yang Jiechang’s neon installation, “God Created The World, The Rest is Made in China.” So true.

So, lots to see at ART021. The focus is really on collectors, who get two whole days to peruse and purchase before the fair opens to the public on Saturday. Tickets cost a pricey 150rmb.

- Frances Arnold


ART021 Opening Party / KTV Takeover

Happening Fri @ Shanghai Zhiye KTV

What's the difference between an artist who performs pop music and attaches themselves to brands -- possibly their own brand -- to blatantly make money and get famous, and an artist who performs pop music they didn't make, and attaches themselves to their own semi-fictional brand? Is the role of energy drinks in society any different than that which coffee and speed have maintained for the last century? And at what point do a brand, an artist, and music synthesize into the same matter, and how much Taylor Swift is in Taylor Swift's fragrance?

Such are the questions that came up after an American artist released an infectious and utterly polarizing song called "Hey QT", produced by Sophie and A.G. Cook in 2014, with art direction by Shanghai's own Kim Laughton.

Some view this as a critique on the brand-takeover of music and EDM "DJs" who really just play pre-mixed sets of tracks made by ghost producers. In a recent conversation over lunch at Jesse restaurant, QT maintained that she's not so cynical, and indeed intends to push the energy drink as a real product. Taking the postmodernism ten steps further, she's performing Friday night at a Minhang KTV owned by a wealthy art collector for the opening party of Art021.

We'll report back on how all that went after the weekend.

Update: You can find some commentary on the event in Music Monday and photographs in our Party Pictures. In summary, this was good, weird times, and by far the coolest way anyone has launched a major art fair in Shanghai this year. The QT performance was just one bit of this, and just like with her music, some people had fun and others were kinda like "meh". More impressively, the event managed to get a few hundred people out to a KTV / art castle in Minhang on a Friday night. A mixed crowd of locals and foreigners, young and not-so-young, art-affiliated and otherwise (and not enough freaks), watched Cheng Ran dance around in a cat suit and QT lip synch and dance through her performance while hostesses upstairs hurried through palatial hallways filled with fountains, emerald, gold balloons, and huge, original works by Xu Zhen, Yang Fudong, and Ding Yi. This scene in itself is some kind of contemporary art. Shanghai's art worlds and music worlds should converge more.

- Ian Louisell