Is there a Chinese word for chutzpah? If there is, the Shanghai artist Xu Zhen, often called the Maurizio Cattelan of China, fits the bill. Combining the roles of artist, curator and chief executive of his own corporation, MadeIn, he has forged a career of pushing buttons, consistently riling audiences with shocking installations though rarely provoking the Chinese government. He is considered the leader of a younger generation of Chinese artists who have disengaged from the Mao-driven paintings of the 1990s in favor of more conceptual projects. Xu Zhen (pronounced shoo-jen) is also the commissioned artist for the sprawling 2014 Armory Show, which opens on Thursday on Piers 92 and 94 in Manhattan with a focus on China.
Sitting recently in a Beijing coffeehouse in the 798 art district, the heart of a growing cultural sector, Mr. Xu, 37, laughed about this latest success while resisting easy categorization of himself as an artist.