Over the past decade, Xu Zhen has emerged as one of China’s most innovative young artists. Working in photography, installation and video art, he often incorporates elements of performance and draws inspiration from the history of conceptual art from the 1970s on. In 1999, along with Shanghai-based artists Yang Fudong, Gu Zhenqing and Yang Zhenzhong, Xu Zhen curated the exhibition ‘Art for Sale’, in many ways a precursor of this work, in which a supermarket was set up in the exhibition space with inexpensive art works displayed on shelves.
ShanghART Supermarket (Australia) 2007–08 is an incisive and humorous comment on the growth of consumer society, both in and outside China. The work was first exhibited at the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair in 2007 and subsequently as a solo exhibition at James Cohan Gallery in New York. In each iteration, Xu Zhen reconstructs a typical modern Chinese supermarket in appearance — fully stocked, but with empty packages. In the context of the contemporary art fairs in which it was first shown, Xu Zhen’s installation was an ironic and complex statement on the art world, hinting at the inflated market prices and voracious demand for contemporary Chinese art.