b. 1986, China

He Xiangyu Biography

He Xiangyu (何翔宇) is part of a new generation of Chinese conceptual artists whose work tests the limits of taste and perception, while critiquing sociopolitical issues such as rapid urbanisation and the impacts of global capitalism. Seemingly simple in their form and aesthetics, his projects are often collaborative and sometimes take several years to realise.

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His Coca-Cola Project (2009-12) is exemplary of this, for which the artist boiled 127 tonnes of Coca-Cola over a year, transforming it into a bitumen-like residue that he then assembled into multiple configurations. One such configuration saw the artist grinding the residue into a powder that he used to create Song dynasty-style ink paintings. This multi-layered work involved a labour force based in his hometown of Dandong, near the North Korean border, where he employed ten workers to construct iron vessels that were used to transform the liquid. In the drawn-out mutation of a liquid synonymous with Western capitalism, He offered commentary on the relationship between art production and consumption.

These ideas also imbued his Tank Project (2011-13), the production of which also necessitated a work force—this time an entire factory of female needle workers. He used 400 pieces of fine Italian leather in order to reconstruct a life-size military tank (an object of recurrence in many episodes of Chinese modern history); its disparate form and material conflated power with desire.

He's practice often takes a localised approach, as seen in his move towards film and video for the Evidence project, which was exhibited at White Cube Bermondsey in London in 2018 (7 February-8 April 2018). Zeroing in on his hometown of Dandong, He examined the complex geopolitical position of the Kuandian area and its position beside North Korea, namely its separation from the country by the Yanlu River. This examination is particularly potent in the artist's feature-length film The Swim (2017), which premiered at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in February 2017. Basing himself in Dandong with a film crew over the course of two years, He explored through a series of interviews the area as a site of relocation for defectors escaping from North Korea along with veterans who fought in the Korean War (1950-1953).

In the making of The Swim, He discovered that before fleeing, many defectors scavenge objects of minimal value that they bring with them to China and sell on arrival. In his video work Evidence (2017), He restages the meticulous process performed by defectors in order to enable the transportation of these objects. Upon this discovery, he collected these objects himself and exhibited them at his solo exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey. In a 2018 conversation with Ocula Magazine, He expressed his initial unease with this project, noting how 'working on the objects meant consuming or exploiting them.'

Born in 1986 in Lianoning, China, He Xiangyu graduated from the Oil Painting Department at Shenyang Normal University in 2008. He has exhibited in numerous exhibitions and biennales around the world, including the Busan Biennale (2014), the Yokahoma Triennale (2014) and the 13th Biennale de Lyon (2015). In 2013, his work was included in 28 Chinese, an exhibition at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami that was the result of six research trips the Rubells made to China between 2001 and 2012, during which time they acquired artwork from 28 artists.

He Xiangyu lives and works in Beijing and Berlin.

Tessa Moldan | Ocula | 2018

He Xiangyu Featured Artworks

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Palate Wonder 24-1 by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
He Xiangyu Palate Wonder 24-1, 2021 Pencil, coloured pencil, oil coloured pencil, crayon, water colour, acid-free oil-based marker, J paper
122.88 x 137.13 inches
Andrew Kreps Gallery Contact Gallery
Palate 18-2-9 by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing, mixed media
He Xiangyu Palate 18-2-9, 2018 Acrylic, graphite, charcoal, pencil, oil stick, acid-free glue, acid-free oil-based marker on paper
210 x 152 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse Contact Gallery
Untitled by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork mixed media
He Xiangyu Untitled, 2018 Stainless steel, wood, rubber, plastic
SCAI The Bathhouse Contact Gallery
Palate 18-2-8 by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork mixed media
He Xiangyu Palate 18-2-8, 2018 Japanese ink, charcoal, pencil, coloured pencil, oil pastel, C-print, acid-free adhesive, acid-free oil-based marker on paper
210 x 152 x 6 cm
White Space Contact Gallery
Types of Panther by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork mixed media
He Xiangyu Types of Panther, 2019 Acrylic, aluminium, wax
45 x 109 x 116 cm
White Space Contact Gallery
Lemon Pickers by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork sculpture
He Xiangyu Lemon Pickers, 2018 Fibreglass, epoxy resin, oil paint, stainless steel, polyethylene
Andrew Kreps Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork painting
He Xiangyu Untitled, 2018 Pencil, acrylic on canvas
80 x 110 x 3 cm
Andrew Kreps Gallery Contact Gallery
121 Lemons by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork painting
He Xiangyu 121 Lemons, 2016 300 x 300 cm White Cube Contact Gallery

He Xiangyu Current & Recent Exhibitions

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He Xiangyu Represented By

White Cube contemporary art gallery in Mason's Yard, London, United Kingdom White Cube Aspen, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, West Palm Beach
White Space contemporary art gallery in Caochangdi, Beijing, China White Space Beijing

He Xiangyu In Ocula Magazine

In Ocula Advisory

He Xiangyu In Related Press

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'Juxtapoz x Superflat', curated by Takashi Murakami, Juxtapoz and Toilet Paper Magazine at Vancouver Art Gallery Related Press 'Juxtapoz x Superflat', curated by Takashi Murakami, Juxtapoz and Toilet Paper Magazine at Vancouver Art Gallery 12 January 2017, Art Radar Journal

The exhibition encompasses the idea of producing and disseminating art objects that are simultaneously audacious and nonchalant, critical and benign.

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Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA) announces 2016 winners Related Press Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA) announces 2016 winners 2 December 2016, Art Radar Journal

On 15 November 2016 the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA) announced winners Cao Fei, He Xiangyu and Xu Bing. In its 10th edition, the award was founded in 1997 by pioneering Swiss collector Uli Sigg, who began collecting Chinese contemporary artists in the 1990s. The aim of CCAA is to give awards to Chinese artists and art critics who show...

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Ink Remix at CMAG: Chinese traditions remixed in cutting-edge collection Related Press Ink Remix at CMAG: Chinese traditions remixed in cutting-edge collection 1 July 2015, The Sydney Morning Herald

Delicate brush strokes on paper – calligraphy, lyrical subjects, perhaps woodblock prints on handmade stock. These are the things that most commonly spring to mind when it comes to Chinese ink art – ancient methods and traditional subjects, perhaps reinterpreted in a contemporary context but always recognisable. Recognisable and...

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Fire and forget. On violence Related Press Fire and forget. On violence 27 June 2015, Domus

“ Fire and Forget ” is a commonly used term in military jargon for weapon systems that are triggered at a safe range from the enemy, and can reach their target independently. It is structured along the four thematic complexes of Borders, Affect, Memory/Remembrance, and Event. The Border motif serves as an introduction to the...

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