Winter in Shanghai brings frigid, cruel weather. Ice forms on desultory puddles and residual snow lurks in shadowy corners. The sun hides behind a blanket of pollution and the air is stagnant. Though the temperature inside seems only a little above freezing, Xu Zhen’s studio flows with creative energy. Heavy overcoats, anoraks and thick jackets are de rigueur and no one seems to mind the cold.
The studio is 40 minutes southwest of the city center, close to the apartment where Xu lives with his wife and two children. The artist commutes daily in his black Range Rover. A semi-brutalist concrete and red-brick structure, the studio itself is modest by Chinese standards, with 4,000 square meters spread over four floors, each with two-and-a-half-meter-high ceilings. It is unpretentious and anonymous.
Xu moved to his current location three months ago, after a previous factory space in the Taopu art district on the opposite side of the city proved too small for his expanding practice.