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Museum of Art Pudong Presents Zeng Fanzhi: Old and New (Paintings 1988–2023) on September 27, Offering Fresh Viewing Experiences with Over 60 Masterworks
Date 2023-09-26

The highly anticipated exhibition Zeng Fanzhi: Old and New (Paintings 1988-2023) officially opens to the public at Museum of Art Pudong (MAP) on September 27, 2023. This marks the fourth major solo exhibition hosted by MAP; it is also the Museum's first exhibition project dedicated to contemporary oil paintings since its grand opening in 2021. In harmony with the remarkable and unique architectural space of the Museum, over 60 pieces of the artist's most iconic works created in the past 35 years have been thoughtfully chosen and grouped into four interrelated yet distinctive sections. They strive to offer the audience four unique types of viewing experiences. 

Acclaimed as one of the most influential living artists today, Zeng Fanzhi has been utilising his keen observations, exceptional painting techniques, and distinctive artistic style to record both China's overall social landscape and individual emotional experiences for the past three decades. The exhibition brings together Zeng Fanzhi's early works, notably the Mask series of the 1990s, the Abstract Landscape series of the 2000s, as well as his continuous practices of still life and portrait, which span his entire artistic career. From these works, we are able to observe his long-standing reflections and experiments in every aspect of painting, including subject matter, composition, brushstrokes, and colour composition. In addition, we can catch a glimpse of his personal interests and perspectives of observation. Of particular note is the global premiere of Zeng Fanzhi's new series, Sparkling Paintings, which Zeng has been working on since 2019. These works are on public display for the first time at MAP. The debut of the series signifies another brand-new chapter in Zeng Fanzhi's artistic journey.

Furthermore, from September 16 to September 17, 2023, Zeng Fanzhi created an oil painting titled Abstract Landscapes – Red on-site during the installation process. It is Zeng's first-ever attempt throughout his artistic career to paint live at an art museum. Most of the traces and marks left on site are preserved for public viewing. During the painting process, seven students specialising in oil painting from several art academies served as creative assistants and witnessed Zeng's creation of the work. For the first time, Zeng offered live instructions regarding the techniques employed in his Abstract Landscape series.


Reflecting on the "Old" Works

Focusing on the "New" Creations

The exhibition is divided between the first and third floors of MAP. Based on different phases of Zeng's creative trajectory with a full account of the fascinating interactive effects that emerge when the audience engages with the medium of painting, the seemingly independent yet interrelated works from various series are brought together within the exhibition halls. Through extensive testing of the relationship between the exhibition space and the artworks, the exhibition is categorised into four sections, namely, The Early Years, Different Paths, Painting as Contemplation, and finally, The Monumentals.

The first section, titled The Early Years, is located on the first floor of the Museum. It chronicles significant junctures in Zeng's early career through a representative selection of his works. This section includes portrait practices and depictions of urban scenes from his time in the art academy, iconic pieces from the Mask series, as well as experimental traces leading up to his early ventures into the Abstract Landscape series. This space provides a comprehensive overview of how the young Zeng Fanzhi forged his career in painting, breathed life into his works, and unlocked boundless possibilities. In this section, viewers will have a clear grasp of Zeng's character and his patterns of observation.

The remaining three sections of the exhibition continue on the third floor of the Museum. They offer diverse perspectives to showcase Zeng's later works. The second section, Different Paths, juxtaposes different types and themes of artworks created by Zeng Fanzhi, which accentuates his long-lasting habit of experimenting simultaneously with various genres in painting. The section features many works from the Abstract Landscape series which highlight his evolving focuses during this stage. A selection of portraits and still life studies bear witness to the enduring styles and interests that define his career. The section concludes with a preview of Zeng's latest experimental series developed over the past four years known as Sparkling Paintings, taking the viewing experience to new heights. In this section, visitors can better appreciate the artist's unique understanding of the medium of painting through his variegated artworks, in which each object serves as a representation, capable of being perceived as both an illusion and a truthful depiction. The boundaries between abstraction and representation are thus blurred and open for interpretation.

The third section, Painting as Contemplation, unveils Zeng's tranquil inner world. The distinctive techniques employed in the Sparkling Paintings series reveal his contemplation on life and time. By repeatedly depicting a series of specific themes, Zeng brings forth his personal experiences onto the canvas. During the process, he unintentionally positions himself within the rich history of vanitas painting. To ensure the audience can view these works in better ways, the exhibition layout in this space is specially designed with add-ons of audio and sounds to complement the viewing experience. Visitors can choose their preferred way to engage with the artworks in this section.

The exhibition culminates in the fourth section, The Monumentals. Located in Exhibition Hall 3A, one of MAP's most unique spaces, this section presents the monumental artworks created by the artist over the past decade. Through a minimalist and distinctive layout design, these works are placed to engage in dynamic dialogues with the natural light within the Museum's expansive setting. Whether the visitors choose to move around or stand still, they can all enjoy the fascinating details of these works from various distances. The subject matter and visual elements portrayed by Zeng Fanzhi stem from his sensibility, visual experiences, and years of continuous exploration of different themes in the annals of global art history. As they are magnified several times over and then deconstructed, a new painterly vocabulary is formed, signifying the infinite space that painting continues to traverse in the contemporary context.


An Exhibition Tailored for the Audience and MAP,

Enriched by Renowned Director's Input of Auditory-Visual Synaesthesia

The exhibition Old and New features a distinctive layout design that takes into account the intriguing interaction between the artworks and the museum space. Through experiments and adjustments of details in spatial design and placement of artworks, it strives to enhance the viewers' experiences on multiple levels. During the preliminary planning stages of the exhibition, the artist worked closely with the curatorial and design teams to conduct in-depth research into the architectural space of MAP. Such research allowed them to get a clearer picture of the architect Jean Nouvel's original vision of the museum. Based on the distinctive characteristics of Zeng's works from different stages, the exhibition is ultimately divided into four sections as mentioned above. Apart from utilising subtle and variable factors such as traffic flow, lighting, sound, ceiling heights, and the audience's attention span, the exhibition also incorporates Zeng's long-standing reflections and experiments in every aspect of painting.

The exhibition also features two special components. They are video clips from the video installation YOU Project which records Zeng's creation process of one of his oil paintings in 2014, and visual and auditory add-ons created by the renowned film director Er Cheng and his team. Zeng Fanzhi holds that viewer experience is an indispensable part of contemporary artwork. This idea was put into practice by his friend, director Er Cheng (known for films such as Lethal Hostage, The Wasted Times, and Hidden Blade), who led his team to examine Zeng's works for an extended period during the planning stage. They then transformed their own feelings and experiences into visual and auditory forms. The auditory reflections are incorporated into the third section Painting as Contemplation while the visual materials are presented in different ways in accordance to time and space. With the hope of engaging viewers' sensibilities and initiating interactive dialogues, these components are played inside the auditorium on the second floor of MAP during the day and in the river-facing Glass Halls at night.

As an exhibition dedicated to contemporary paintings, the project aims to provide the viewers with various ways to view exhibited artworks and encourage them to adopt a more active and personalised approach to experience the exhibition in an individualised manner that is "unique to them." In doing so, the viewers can better grasp the enduring charm of the traditional medium of art that is painting.


The Third Decade for Zeng Fanzhi


Zeng Fanzhi's personal artistic journey has unfolded in tandem with the proliferation of contemporary Chinese art since the late 20th century. His distinct stages of art creation have left indelible marks on the annals of contemporary art in both China and beyond.

In 2003, Zeng Fanzhi held a solo exhibition at the Shanghai Art Museum (China Art Palace) titled I/We: The Paintings of Zeng Fanzhi 1991­­–2003. It offered a comprehensive overview of his early works, the Mask series, and his then most recent experimental pieces, which foreshadowed a significant shift in his painting style. A decade later, in 2013, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris organised a major retrospective exhibition titled Zeng Fanzhi. The exhibition chronicled the artist's 25-year career in painting and presented his expanded artistic vocabulary. This exhibition caused a sensation in France and became a highly discussed topic at that time. Now, with Old and New exhibited at MAP, we're entering the third decade of Zeng's creative trajectory following those two exhibitions. This time, Zeng Fanzhi returns to Shanghai for the significant solo exhibition, with Fabrice Hergott, Director of Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, serving as the chief curator to jointly revisit the "old" of the past and embrace the "new" of the present.

One artist, two cities, and three decades. These delightful memories scattered throughout time are woven together in a captivating manner. Measured in decade-long spans, Old and New stands as another milestone in the artist's career.

Zeng Fanzhi: Old and New is produced by Shanghai Lujiazui Development (Group) Co., Ltd., organised by Museum of Art Pudong, and co-presented by MAP and Zeng Fanzhi Studio. It is curated by Fabrice Hergott, Director of Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris, with Jing Jin as the executive curator and Joseph Dejardin as the chief exhibition designer.

Zeng Fanzhi: Old and New (Paintings 1988-2023)  Exhibition Poster】


About Museum of Art Pudong

Located at the heart of Xiao Lujiazui, the Museum of Art Pudong (MAP) broke ground on September 26, 2017, and opened to the public in July, 2021.

Invested, built, and managed by the Lujiazui Group and designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel (AJN), MAP is primarily set out to present world-class exhibitions to its audience as well as showcasing domestic artists. The four major functions of MAP include: to hold exhibitions, to promote art education, to develop cultural merchandises, and to advocate for international exchange. MAP aims to become a new cultural landmark of Shanghai and an important platform for international cultural exchange. 

About Zeng Fanzhi

Zeng Fanzhi, born in Wuhan, China in 1964, graduated from the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in Wuhan in 1991 and later relocated to Beijing. As one of the most celebrated artists today, Zeng Fanzhi's works reflect his unremitting exploration of the medium of painting, as well as his continuing examination, contemplation and integration of Eastern and Western art traditions.

Zeng Fanzhi has held solo and group exhibitions at numerous renowned art institutions both at home and abroad, including Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris in France, Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, The Palace Museum in Beijing, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His works have also been featured in many important public collections, including The National Art Museum of China, Shanghai Art Museum, M+ Hong Kong, Singapore Art Museum, Kunstmuseum Bonn in Germany, Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris in France, Francisco Godia Foundation in Spain, Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the U.S., Denver Art Museum in the U.S., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the U.S., and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan.


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