We collected for you texts, images, documents and reports about Chen Zhen, hoping to welcome you back soon in Pirelli HangarBicocca.

Our fall exhibition, “Short-circuits”, curated by Vicente Todolí and presented in the Navate space, brings together for the first time several Chen Zhen’s (Shanghai, 1955—Paris, 2000) most significant works from 1991 to 2000. The show is conceived as an immersive exploration within Chen Zhen’s complex artistic research and reflects on themes such as globalization and consumerism, overcoming the hegemony of Western values, and the encounter between different cultures, at the core of the artist’s practice.

As the artist says:

“In my work, the absence of images of the human body is a ‘visual trap’ as the very strong presence of the spirit of man through the invisibility of the materials is omnipresent if you don’t stop at the form” (Chen Zhen, extract from Objects of nature. Interview between Jérôme Sans and Chen Zhen, 1992)

Once a friend of mine asked me what was it like when I reach the most exciting moment and status in my creative process? I said it was like the ‘short circuit’ phenomenon in electricity. Two opposite electrodes meet: irrelevant, yet from the same electrical circuit. What I am really interested in is the shocking and destructive power triggered by a short circuit. That is creation. That is the most stimulating moment” (Chen Zhen, extract from Transexperiences. A Conversation Between Chen Zhen and Zhu Xian, 1998)

Learn more about the artist’s writings

A selection of Chen Zhen’s preparatory drawings and sketches is included in the publication that accompanies the show at Pirelli HangarBicocca. Made with India ink or watercolor on paper, these drawings show the constant dialogue between surface and space, painting and installation in his practice. Find out more about the catalog

The monumental installation Jue Chang, Dancing Body – Drumming Mind (The Last Song) of 2000, which opens the show in Pirelli HangarBicocca, is composed of beds, chairs and stools whose surfaces are covered in cowhide. The work is among the few realized by the artist that have a performative approach and can be activated by dancers who brush their hands across and drum on the leather surfaces, resembling the movements used in Chinese massage. The sound produced is closely linked to an action inherent to an individual and spiritual dimension. Watch the video of the activation in Pirelli HangarBicocca

Access a preview of an extract from the insightful essay by critic and curator Alexandra Munroe, published in the catalog “Short-circuits” together with contributions by Vicente Todolí and by critic and curator Marco Scotini.

Download our selected bibliography and discover more about Chen Zhen’s work and the context related to contemporary Chinese art.

Watch the video interview of Vicente Todolí, Artistic Director and curator of the show, shot inside the exhibition space.

Listen on ADAC’s website to the artist in conversation with critic and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist in 2000 at the Osaka airport.


Public Program | Chen Zhen
On Thursday 10 December at 7 PM do not miss the live streaming of Between the seen and the unseen. A conversation on the work of Chen Zhen, a dialog between Vicente Todolí, Artistic Director of Pirelli HangarBicocca, and Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator, Guggenheim Museum and Director, Curatorial Affairs, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
Discover more

Image credits

Installation views:
Exhibition views, “Short-circuits”, 2020. Courtesy Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. Photo: Agostino Osio.
Chen Zhen, Jue Chang, Dancing Body – Drumming Mind (The Last Song), 2000. PINAULT COLLECTION. Courtesy Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. Photo: Agostino Osio.
Chen Zhen, Purification Room, 2000. Courtesy Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, and GALLERIA CONTINUA. Photo: Agostino Osio.

Chen Zhen, sketches for Round Table (1995), Nightly Imprecations (1999) and Jue Chang, Dancing Body – Drumming Mind (The Last Song) (2000).

Chen Zhen, Jue Chang, Dancing Body – Drumming Mind (The Last Song), 2000. Installation view and performance, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2020. PINAULT COLLECTION. Courtesy Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. Photo: Francesco Margaroli.

All images © Chen Zhen by ADAGP, Paris.