W hen Chinese contemporary artist Xu Zhen debuted his conceptual work SHANGHART SUPERMARKET at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2007, it created quite a sensation. Posing questions about authorship, artistic creation and consumerism, the installation reconstructed a Chinese convenience store where visitors were invited to shop for products, albeit empty ones. Stripped of their ostensible purposes, the empty products found enthusiastic buyers all the same — and the artwork has subsequently been recreated at art venues around the world.
Two years after SHANGHART SUPERMARKET was first exhibited, Xu Zhen decided to subsume his own identity within an art-making company called MadeIn Company. Four years later, in 2013, he went one step further in blurring the boundaries between art and commercial production, launching the XU ZHEN® brand under MadeIn Company, thereby branding himself as a product of his own corporation.
Setting Up XU ZHEN SUPERMARKET in Shanghai
In 2016, he returned to the concept of the shopping emporium with XUZHEN SUPERMARKET, which he credited to the XU ZHEN® brand. Authored by a brand and not a person, the work serves as an idiosyncratic 21st-century self-portrait: one that exemplifies Xu Zhen’s radical creative strategies and which encapsulates the genius of one of the most important conceptual artists operating in the world today.
In XUZHEN SUPERMARKET, shelves are stocked with familiar products, from familiar Western offerings like Colgate toothpaste to bottles of Kweichow Moutai, the popular Chinese liquor. Closer inspection, however, reveals the store as devoid of any actual products, and instead offering the empty packaging alone. These false offerings proposition viewers to make a purchase, merging art and daily life.
XUZHEN SUPERMARKET will be open for exhibition and public participation in Hong Kong from 28 September to 3rd October. The work will become the first concept ever offered at auction in Asia when it arrives at the auction block at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 30 September. XUZHEN SUPERMARKET will be offered with an estimate of HK$900,000–1,500,000 ($115,000–192,000).