Xu Zhen

(b. 1977, Shanghai)
Xu Zhen was born in 1977 in Shanghai, China, and graduated from the Shanghai Arts and Crafts Institute in 1996. Unlike many of the Chinese artists who graduated from prestigious art academies in China, Xu Zhen was considered an outsider in the art circles. Nevertheless, he quickly acquired the same fame and status of many of his contemporaneous artists.

Working with installation, performance, and video art, Xu combines dark humor, irony, and elements of shock in his work as criticism of societal assumptions and structures. In 2009, Xu founded MadeIn Company, which according to the company's website, "it is a contemporary art creation company, focusing on the production of creativity and the research of contemporary culture's infinite possibilities."

Aside from being an artist, Xu Zhen is also a curator. He has co-curated several major exhibitions in Shanghai and in 2006 was one of the initiators of the online contemporary art forum, Art-Ba-Ba.

Recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthaus Graz (2015), Witte de Witte, Rotterdam (2015), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2014), the Minsheng Museum, Shanghai (2012) and Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (2011). Group exhibitions include: China The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, (2012); Art Of Change: New Directions from China, Hayward Gallery, London (2012); Inside the White Cube, London (2012); 12 Rooms, Museum Folkwang, Gelsenkirchen (2012); The Thirteen: Chinese Video Now, Museum of Modern Art, NYC (2006); The Real Thing: Contemporary Art From China, Tate Liverpool (2007); Follow Me! Chinese Contemporary Art at the Threshold of the New Millennium, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2005) and the 49th Venice Biennale, Venice (2001).


70 13/16 X 98 3/8 X 5 5/16 IN

On display at:


Similar to frosting on cakes, UNDER HEAVEN 2629VT0146 is made of rosettes of oil paint squeezed onto the dibond from a pastry cook's icing bag. The paint is thick and dense, and like the colorful frosting on cakes, it appeals to the viewer's senses. Seen from above, the heavy layers of paint resembles a cityscape seen from space, hence the title of the piece "Under Heaven" -- a reference to the Chinese concept of tian xia – 'all under heaven.'

This artwork was produced by MadeIn Company, an artists collective dedicated to contemporary art creation founded by the Chinese artist Xu Zhen in Shanghai in 2009. It is composed of a number of contemporary artists and creative practitioners that work together as an 'art creation studio.' In Chinese, MadeIn Company – meiding gongsi 沒頂公司 translates to 'a company without a head' and 'a company drowned by a head'; which references its collective format and non-hierarchical structure.

Based on Xu's artistic direction, MadeIn Company makes works in a variety of media including installation, painting, and sculpture that explore universal concepts, often by combining transcultural objects and histories. Its business model as both a studio and a company consistently promotes the integration of art and business.