Lot 1065
  • 1065


900,000 - 1,500,000 HKD
2,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Xu Zhen
  • a certificate signed by XU ZHEN® conferring the exclusive right to commission physical recreations and enactments of XUZHEN SUPERMARKET
Conceived in 2016, this work is unique edition 1/1 with 3 Artist Proofs


XUZHEN SUPERMARKET is a conceptual artwork conceived by XU ZHEN®. An enactment of the conceptual artwork features a replica of a Chinese convenience store including bona fide cash registers and a diverse assortment of merchandise. The artwork invites viewers to browse among and purchase from the stocked shelves filled with a range of familiar consumer goods. Upon closer inspection, it soon becomes apparent that each item of merchandise is devoid of content, consisting only of their packaging. By inviting viewers to invest in empty shells, which are bereft of substance or use value, XUZHEN SUPERMARKET offers a wry critique on consumerism, advertising and global capitalism.

The successful buyer of this Lot will acquire a certificate relating to edition 1/1 of the conceptual artwork XUZHEN SUPERMARKET by XU ZHEN® giving the buyer the right to commission physical recreations and enactments of XUZHEN SUPERMARKET.

Please note that this Lot does not include any physical structure or item of merchandise exhibited by XU ZHEN® prior to the auction. Should the successful buyer of the work wish to retain any physical structure of item of merchandise exhibited by XU ZHEN®, this may be arranged directly between the buyer and XU ZHEN®.

The material and manpower costs, and all other associated costs, of each recreation and re-enactment of the XUZHEN SUPERMARKET are not included in the purchase price and will be payable by the buyer directly to XU ZHEN® at the time of the commission.


Shanghai, MadeIn Gallery, XUZHEN Supermarket, 8 - 29 April 2016
London, Sadie Coles HQ, XUZHEN Supermarket, 21 September - 4 November 2017

Catalogue Note

The Golden Age of Hollowness
Text: Chen Jiaying

"Its most distinctive characteristic is 'hollowness' - in other words, pure spectacle. And the spectacle, to recall Guy Debord's classic formulation, is 'capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image'. The ambiguous status of the supermarket - stripped of all its defining qualities - seems to indicate that consumption - whether of food or images - is essential, but also destroys" (Sine Bepler, ShanghART Supermarket, 2007). This was the footnote that Xu Zhen supplied for ShanghART Supermarket, the prototype of XUZHEN SUPERMARKET, when it was first exhibited at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2007. In the work, the artist recreated, in full scale, an archetypal Chinese convenience store, including a cashier, staff, and racks filled with merchandise packaging. The artist had purchased the merchandise from real-life convenience stores and meticulously recreated their presentation in his replica SUPERMARKET. Xu Zhen's team painstakingly emptied their contents and resealed the packaging of each item, such that they could be sold at their original retail prices to visitors. This labour, as well as the sale of empty packaging, was part of the artwork.

British art critic Alastair Sooke has suggested that Xu Zhen's SUPERMARKET is an even more direct parody of the model of the supermarket than Andy Warhol's work. This led him to include Xu Zhen in the BBC Documentary Soupcans and Superstars: How Pop Art Changed the World as a foremost representative of Chinese Neo-Pop Art. The dialectic relationship between art and commercial merchandise is a major theme in Xu's oeuvre, and his iconic SUPERMARKET encapsulates the epitome of the artist's deconstruction of this longstanding relationship. The key here is the haunting "hollowness" that is offered to customers. Soon after the project's inception, the Chinese art market peaked in around 2008 and subsequently withdrew into a quiet recession. Under this context, the "hollowness" in Xu Zhen's Supermarket gains new significance, invoking a further metaphor for the short-lived dramas of globalisation. Retaining its original inquiries into the nature of representation, the manifestation of ownership, and the processes of production, circulation, and viewer reception, Xu Zhen's Supermarket raises new and equally pressing questions: the price of prosperity, the life cycle of an economic bubble, the nature of value, the symbolism of consumerism, and the system of desire that undergirds them all.

In 1999, at the young age of 22, Xu Zhen was already sensitive to the idiosyncratic relationship between art and commerce. He was one of the main artists behind the ground-breaking Art for Sale exhibition at the People's Square in Shanghai - a pioneering event that merits mention in art history. For the exhibition, the artists traded artwork in a space that combined the space of a supermarket and the space of an installation area, thereby putting into practice the philosophy of "applying the way of commerce onto the way of life" (Xu Zhen, Yang Zhenzhong, Flying Apple, “The ‘Supermarket’ Exhibition: Messages from Sponsors (selections)”, in Wu Hung, An Exhibition about Exhibitions: Displaying Contemporary Art in the 1990s, 2016, p. 206). Xu Zhen continued to develop precisely such a philosophy within his wide-ranging practice; for this reason, Xu was tagged as a leading proponent of Neo-Pop after his 2015 solo exhibition at the Long Museum in Shanghai. In the exhibition, Xu Zhen presented a critical commentary on the issue of ambiguity over editioned artworks, showing all five editions of his works side by side. The gesture acted as testament to the radically interrogatory and boundary-breaking nature of Xu Zhen's oeuvre - one which is far more complex and intricate than the original Pop movement. Xu Zhen's unique brand of Pop encompasses not only rebellion and irony, as in the Pop art of the West; but also the ambiguity, the satirical dialectics and Zen-like wit of the East.

This was noted very early on by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, who wrote in the January 2007 issue of Artforum: "Clearly, Xu's sociopolitical appraisals distance him from the herd of contemporary Chinese artists. And the breadth of his practice, in all its seeming spontaneity and surprising inflections and turns, only complicates the attempt to pin him down to any single position within his country's art scene - or, indeed, within cultural production at large" (Hans-Ulrich Obrist, “First Take”, Artforum, January 2007). Such a complex global positioning, together with Xu's consummate mastery of Eastern and Western thought, has resulted in a fluid oeuvre that knows no boundaries, whether regional or cultural. Xu's adeptness in adapting and adopting cultural elements from around the world has led to a series of powerful and acclaimed works, including Movement Field, Evolution, and Eternity.

Xu Zhen is not only one of China's most controversial and representative artists, but also a curator and the founder of the MadeIn Company. In 1998, he co-founded the Biyi Art Center, the first independent non-profit art organisation in Shanghai. He won the Best Artist Award at the 2004 China Contemporary Art Awards (CCAA) and was the youngest Chinese artist at the time to participate in the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001. Precocious and self-possessed, Xu Zhen was recognised early for his talent and has always lived up to his name. In 2006, he and other Shanghai artists founded the online art community Art-Ba-Ba (www.art-ba-ba.com), which continues to host the most active discussions on contemporary art in China. In 2009, when Chinese artists were criticised for delegating artistic production to studio assistants, Xu Zhen founded MadeIn Company as a response. Taking a step further than Warhol's Factory in parodying the age of capitalism, MadeIn has attracted comparisons with Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and Takashi Murakami. Defying criticism, Xu Zhen appointed himself CEO, and in 2013 developed his personal brand Xu Zhen®. In 2014, the company opened MadeIn Gallery, and in November 2016, the first Xu Zhen Store opened in Shanghai.

Such pathbreaking endeavours have earned Xu Zhen recognition as a Chinese artist with "chutzpah", in the words of Barbara Pollack of the New York Times. With a rare blend of confidence and ambition, and always a finger on the zeitgeist, Xu Zhen marshals a host of complex emotions and complicated issues like self-consciousness, cultural identity, and local politics. Whether faced with controversy or praise, the wily trickster never allows himself to be pinned down by identities or definitions. Instead, in the moving and intelligent ambiguities of his art, he projects the brand of "Xu Zhen" and all the meanings it contains into the vast stratosphere of postmodernity. Yet, as we consider Xu Zhen in this way, we seem inevitably to fall into his trap. As he has said, "truth is sometimes a trap". In XUZHEN SUPERMARKET , you are invited to consume and to purchase at market prices the hollow residue of merchandise. Manifesting the appearance of a lie, XUZHEN SUPERMARKET paradoxically reveals the true nature of contemporary society: we live in a Golden Age stuffed with hollowness, and we are all paying for it.