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The New York Times 《纽约时报》

December 2 2005 二零零五年十二月二日


Zhu: Looking for 'something simple'

By Alexandra A. Seno

DECEMBER 2, 2005

HONG KONG 'When everyone is looking for a better life on the mainland, I am looking for something simple," says the Beijing artist Zhu Wei. His striking colored ink paintings still feature his trademark caricaturelike figures and an attitude that is somewhere between kitsch, pop and reverence for the classics. And yet there appears to be a new maturity in the works produced lately by the 39-year-old Zhu, one of China's most financially successful young artists.

"I paint to remind people of changes in China. But I was disappointed that my work didn't yield changes; what I only got was money," he declares with his wry sense of humor. Zhu isn't giving up. "People didn't get my message before, so I try something more simple, lower the political message to give people space to think."

The characters in military dress, the visual language of Communist Party propaganda and the patriotism in his distinctive artistic style still appear now and again - this time with pensive reflection. The people in his art look more serious; the compositions seem less gimmicky and much closer to traditional Chinese painting, with swaths of space devoid of figures and objects, giving the viewer room to reflect.

The artist's story is well known to followers of China's contemporary art scene. As a teenager, Zhu entered the military. His soldiering days ended when he was admitted to the People's Liberation Army Art College, finishing in 1989. After a few years of painting propaganda art for the motherland, his unit was demobilized in 1992.

He had just graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 1993, when he joined an art fair in Guangzhou Province as a 27-year-old struggling painter, selling his works for about $150 each. At the expo, Zhu's vibrant style caught the eye of the Asian art impresario Stephen McGuinness; almost overnight, Zhu became a superstar.

By 2004, the IBM building at 590 Madison Avenue in New York installed "China China," one of Zhu's bronze statues in its lobby alongside works by such established art names Andy Warhol and Alexander Calder. Zhu also became the first Chinese to be invited by the Singapore Tyler Print Institute as a visiting artist. Zhu's works are regularly sold at auctions by Christie's and Sotheby's and can be found in several prestigious personal, corporate and museum art collections around the world.

Having come so far, so fast, he says he intends to stay true to his art and get back to his roots. Despite successful forays into different mediums like printmaking and sculpture, in the immediate future he fully intends to focus on how it all started for him: painting, Chinese-style colored ink on paper.

"I am concerned about contemporary Chinese art. People just mimic what those outside of China are doing. It is dangerous," he says. As one of the pioneers in his generation and having made a name for himself early, he acknowledges that he is fortunate that he can choose what he would like to do with his energy. "Some artists are doing lots of things like restaurants and horse farms," Zhu remarks, "I am quite stable. Getting a better life is not my aim."

"I have always tried to use traditional Chinese elements because we have thousands of years of history," he says. "From the beginning, I have been trying to show how to modernize the past." He works in his own studio space in Beijing, often with the help of two assistants - one Japanese, the other Chinese.

Zhu sketches extensively, making miniatures before painting a large work, destroying everything but the final version. In the last two years, he has only produced 20 paintings, half of which he has just sent to McGuinness Plum Blossoms Gallery, which until Tuesday is showing them in the Hong Kong branch (there are galleries in Singapore and New York as well). These days, Zhu's "small" pieces, which are about 1 square meter, or 10 square feet, in size, tend to command prices above $20,000.

Zhu, who maintains the same buzz cut from his army days, likes to take classic stories and ideas and interpret them in his own way. Similar to the way that paintings used to bear the marks of the imminent personalities who had viewed them, he uses dozens of his own red seals to stamp his work not only with his name, but with his address and his Web sites.

His main Web site is almost exclusively in English, a curious detail that underscores how Zhu is a lot better known and a lot more appreciated among wealthy expatriates in Asia and art lovers in the West, rather than among those in his own country. "Most 'contemporary arts' don't happen locally," he says. True enough, the largest and most prominent collectors of new-style paintings, sculpture and photography from China tend not to be mainlanders.

He has two main theories about the West's current love affair with contemporary Chinese art. "Many artists are copying Western styles, and the Chinese art only costs half the price. Second, since China has developed so quickly, people are curious about Chinese art."

He says he has also gained a new Chinese following. With the mainland government clamping down on real estate speculation, Zhu says small groups of local investors have shifted their attention to art, going around the country purchasing the works of the more established Chinese names.

Zhu says: "I don't think about who is buying my work. Lots of foreigners know more about Chinese history. Some Chinese people cannot tell you the order of the imperial dynasties."




亚历山大 A. 塞诺  





1993年他从北京电影学院毕业,当他参加广州一个艺术展的时候,他还是一个27岁的正在挣扎的艺术家,每幅作品不过150美元。在那次展览上,朱伟的鲜明风格吸引了亚洲艺术经纪人Stephen McGuinness的注意力;几乎在一夜之间,朱伟就成了超级巨星。 











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