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b. 1955, China

Gu Wenda Biography

Gu Wenda is best known for his extraordinary installations comprised of human bodily substances: powdered placenta, blood, and hair. Born in Shanghai, he studied at the Shanghai Arts & Crafts School before continuing onto the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. The artist's early training in traditional Chinese painting laid the foundation for much of his provocative later work, which often involves the manipulation of Chinese calligraphy using the extraordinary range of media that his practice has come to be associated with.

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Immediately after completing his studies in the 1980s, Gu created a series of pseudo-ideograms that resemble Chinese characters. When the works were shown at Xi'an Artists Gallery in 1986, the authorities closed the exhibition prematurely on the presumption that the illegible characters contained a subversive message; only professional artists were allowed in when it reopened. In his interview with Ocula Magazine in 2014, Gu said that his large ink paintings held 'a kind of double power: these ink works were both scholarly and socialist—they represented the two major schools of thought and authority in China at the time.' Although such works placed the artist as a major figure in the 1985 New Wave movement in China, like many of his artistic compatriots he left China for the West and now permanently resides in New York.

Gu's own experience of crossing borders and living a life outside of his own home country possibly inspired a fascination with the permeability of cultural boundaries. His most ambitious project, 'United Nations', consists of installations at sites around the world; and involves the use of human hair to create flags. The work draws attention to the tenuous nature of cultural divisions, and also presents a utopian possibility of humanity united. The work equally presents a manipulation of language and exploration and re-interpretation of traditional Chinese modes of expression—an approach that can be seen in other works by the artist, such as Forest of Stone Steles—Retranslation & Rewriting of Tang Poetry, for which the artist manipulated, juxtaposed, and layered translations and re-translations of poetry from the Tang dynasty. In Tea Alchemy and Ink Alchemy, too, the artist explored traditional Chinese materials as a means to address wider global concerns.

Ocula | 2019

Exhibition view: A Botanical Garden at Hanart, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong (29 August–10 October 2020). Courtesy Hanart TZ Gallery. Photo: Kitmin Lee

Gu Wenda Featured Artworks

Body Landscape #3 《人體山水#3》 by Gu Wenda contemporary artwork
Gu WendaBody Landscape #3 《人體山水#3》, UndatedInk on Paper
45.7 x 68.4 cm
Hanart TZ Gallery Contact Gallery
Mythos of Lost Dynasties- K Series #1- #10 by Gu Wenda contemporary artwork
Gu WendaMythos of Lost Dynasties- K Series #1- #10, 2011Ink on paper
180.5 x 965 cm
Hanart TZ Gallery Contact Gallery
United Nations - Man and Space by Gu Wenda contemporary artwork
Gu WendaUnited Nations - Man and Space, 1999-2000Human hair, white glue, burlap 188 pieces of national flags made of human hair, 198 x 122 each
Variable dimensions
Hanart TZ Gallery Contact Gallery
Forest of Stone Steles - Retranslation & Rewriting of Tang Poetry by Gu Wenda contemporary artwork
Gu WendaForest of Stone Steles - Retranslation & Rewriting of Tang Poetry, 1993-2005Stone carving and ink rubbing on paper, Stone steles 20 x 110 x 190 cm each, 50 pieces
Variable dimensions
Hanart TZ Gallery Contact Gallery
Mythos of Lost Dynasties Series J #1- #27 by Gu Wenda contemporary artwork
Gu WendaMythos of Lost Dynasties Series J #1- #27, 2011Ink on paper
97 x 60 cm
Hanart TZ Gallery Contact Gallery

Gu Wenda Current & Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, A Botanical Garden at Hanart 漢雅軒的兵頭花園 at Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong
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29 August–31 October 2020 Group Exhibition A Botanical Garden at Hanart 漢雅軒的兵頭花園 Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong KongHong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Hong Sek Chern, Gu Gan, Chua Ek Kay, Gu Wenda, Thinking Ink: Improvisations on Cultural Criteria at Gajah Gallery, Singapore
Closed
28 July–21 August 2017 Hong Sek Chern, Gu Gan, Chua Ek Kay, Gu Wenda Thinking Ink: Improvisations on Cultural Criteria Gajah Gallery, SingaporeSingapore
Contemporary art exhibition, Gu Wenda, Solo at Hanart TZ Gallery at Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong
Closed
13 May–7 June 2014 Gu Wenda Solo at Hanart TZ Gallery Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong KongHong Kong

Gu Wenda Represented By

Asia Art Center contemporary art gallery in Taipei, Taiwan Asia Art Center Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai
Hanart TZ Gallery contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Hanart TZ Gallery Hong Kong

Gu Wenda In Ocula Magazine

LACMA Explores the Allure of Matter Ocula Feature LACMA Explores the Allure of Matter By Jareh Das, Los Angeles

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (2 June 2019–5 January 2020) is an inter-generational show of 21 Chinese artists working from the 1980s to the present, including Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Lin Tianmiao, Song Dong, He Xiangyu, Yin Xiuzhen, and Ma Qiusha.

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Art in Shenzhen Ocula Feature Art in Shenzhen By Sam Gaskin, Shenzhen

Connected by high-fiving metro systems, Shenzhen is a short commute from the leading city in Asia for trading art. While it has nothing to rival Hong Kong’s Gagosian, White Cube, Art Basel, Sotheby’s or Christie’s commercially, it is rapidly improvising its own distinct art ecosystem, a mix of public and private...

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Gu Wenda Ocula Conversation Gu Wenda By Tiffany Beres, Singapore

I feel like I have a special relationship with Singapore, and it’s a story that’s only just beginning.

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Gu Wenda In Related Press

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MoCA Shanghai announces 'Shanshui Within' featuring 16 contemporary Chinese artists Related Press MoCA Shanghai announces 'Shanshui Within' featuring 16 contemporary Chinese artists 25 August 2016, CAFA Art Info

On September 3, 2016, sixteen contemporary Chinese artists will display several of their works at MoCA Shanghai as part of the museum’s new exhibition, Shanshui Within. The works will provide viewers with the artists’ unique interpretations of traditional Chinese culture and how it evolved as a result of the rapid development of...

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Asia in the spotlight: The Prudential Eye Awards 2016 Related Press Asia in the spotlight: The Prudential Eye Awards 2016 21 January 2016, Art Radar Journal

The Prudential Eye Awards 2016 was held at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on 19 January 2016. Featuring 15 shortlisted artists, 39 works and an eminent panel of Judges, the event celebrates Asia’s most exciting up-and-coming talent. The awards ceremony was officiated by Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth...

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Local talents showcase their works at Singapore Art Week Related Press Local talents showcase their works at Singapore Art Week 19 January 2016, The Straits Times

Home-grown artists are having a strong showing at this year's Singapore Art Week, with museum shows, solo exhibitions and an increased presence at two art fairs opening simultaneously. At STPI in Robertson Quay, painter Jane Lee makes a significant departure from her large-scale paintings working with print and paper works and introducing...

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Human Materialist: Gu Wenda Related Press Human Materialist: Gu Wenda 11 December 2014, HG Master for Art Asia Pacific / Nov/Dec 2014

Just six minutes into our breakfast conversation mid-May in Hong Kong, Gu Wenda described himself as a “troublemaker,” who “didn’t follow school requirements—even as a teacher.” I’d expected as much from an artist who made his name outside of China beginning in the late 1980s with massive installations...

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