Past Exhibitions

Zhao Gang: Nothing is Happening


Artist Zhao Gang
Curator Lu Minjun

In the summer of 2021, Zhao Gang presented the solo exhibition "Domestic Anxiety" at Long Museum West Bund location in Shanghai. More than a year later, he returns for his second solo exhibition, "Nothing is Happening." However, the exhibition venue has changed from Shanghai to Chongqing.

The exhibition consists of three groups of works interspersed: the first on still life, the second on self-portraits of the artist, and the third a "party" mixing old and new works with different themes. Most of these still lifes are modeled after the artist's studio and kitchen. Zhao Gang's renderings are ambivalent, sometimes taking the classical approach, other times modern. However, he's consistently and deliberately enlarged most of these still lifes to several or even ten folds, to scales far beyond our everyday experience. The enlargement is not to highlight the details of the objects and images but to attribute these everyday objects (including the fruits and vegetables, meat, ribs, pigs' heads, wine sets, vases, candlesticks, etc.) to an exalted position in other words, make a distinction with us. Obviously, with such scales and distance, what we look at are no longer the familiar objects around us but mirror images of our situation and destiny. The works on canvas are no longer objects of appreciation but reality itself.

Related to this is a series of the artist's self-portraits. The figures' dimension in the paintings is the artist's height, and the contextual pictures are either fictional or appropriated from old photographs. From the artist's attire in the images, Zhao Gang has portrayed himself with multiple identities, including a (capitalist) gentleman and a flaneur. Extending from his previous search and inquiry about his identity, here he is dressed and posed in different identities, but what remains unchanged is his aged face and body shape. Like the still life paintings, Zhao Gang instead perceives these identities he depicts (including himself as an artist) as decaying objects - of course, perhaps he wants to leave them with the last shred of dignity by painting. The third group, "Party," blends subjects of history, landscape, conquest, and lust, akin to backdrops or annotations, to the other two groups. 

Full of tease and cynicism, these works on canvas seem hollow and bewildering; they seem nonchalant about the world, somehow projecting a sense of helplessness and frustration. "Nothing is Happening" did not offer Zhao Gang the slightest serenity. As a cynic at heart, Zhao Gang remains anxious and restless. He began to doubt painting and felt that it had become a pointless endeavor. He questions the art industry and realizes that such continuous efforts may perhaps hasten the demise of art. He also doubts his identity, making him more conflicted and despairing.



As one of the earliest and most consistent proponents of the Chinese avant-garde, Zhao Gang has never stopped re-inventing himself. The youngest member of the Stars Group in the late seventies and early eighties, he subsequently went on to study, live, and work in New York as a banker, publisher, filmmaker and artist. Zhao Gang's multifaceted work and audacious persona have helped deem him godfather of "bad painting" in China. 

His recent exhibitions include:  Domestic Anxiety, Long Museum (West Bund), Shanghai (2021); Chinese Eastern Railway: Zhao Gang, Long March Space, Beijing (2020); Zhao Gang 21st: Supports/Colorlumps as Anthropography of History, Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei (2020); Zhao Gang: History Painting, Pérez Art Museum, Miami (2019); Zhao Gang: Acquiring Identity, Long March Space, Beijing (2018); The Road to Serfdom II, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile (2016); Paramour's Garden, Suzhou Museum, Suzhou (2015); Zhao Gang: The Road to Serfdom, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2015).



Lu Mingjun, Assistant Research Fellow at the School of Philosophy, Fudan University; Academic director at Shenzhen OCAT; His curated exhibitions include, Frontier: Re-assessment of Post-Globalisational Politics (2017- 2018), River flowing without a Beacon, 1979(2019), Corner Square Montage (2019), and Muses, Yu Gong and Compasses (2020). His academic essays are published in Literature & Art StudiesArt Research and The Twenty-First Century and others. Recent publications include, Poetic Justice (Henan University Press, 2019); Revolution of Art and Modern China: Radical Origins of Chinese Contemporary Art (The Commercial Press, 2020) etc. Lu was also the grantee of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Greater China Research Grant in 2015; and the recipient of the Yishu Award for Writing on Contemporary Chinese Art in 2016. He received a fellowship grant from Asia Cultural Council (ACC) and was the recipient of the 6th Chinese Contemporary Art Critic Award (CCAA) in 2017. In 2019, He was the Recipient of the Award of Art (AAC) Chinese Contemporary Art Curator Award.

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