Selected works by Liu Wei

Liu Wei
Indigestion II


Mixed media

83 x 214 x 89 cm

Liu Wei’s practice is uniquely varied. Working in video, installation, drawing, sculpture, and painting, there is no stylistic tendency which ties his work together. Rather Liu perceives the artist’s function as a responsibility of unmitigated, uncensored expression, tied to neither ideology nor form. Throughout Liu’s work lies an engagement with peripheral identity in the context of wider culture; his works often describe a sentiment of excess, corruption, and aggression reflective of cultural anxiety.

Liu’s sculpture Indigestion II is a monumental poo. Spanning two meters, it’s a man-sized statement of rejection. Crafted with comic exaggeration, Liu’s turd is both repulsive and compelling; leaving no detail to the imagination, Liu offers ‘too much information’ in the details. On closer inspection, half digested kernels emerge as hundreds of toy soldiers, spilling forth in an unmistakable sentiment of protest.

Liu Wei
Love It! Bite It!


edible dog chews

Dimensions variable

This parody of grotesque consumption re-emerges with Liu’s Love It! Bite It! – a model plan of a city made entirely from dog chews. Comically editing down the world to only the ’tastiest’ bits, Liu’s utopian vision re-engineers the breadth of Western history - from the Coliseum to the Guggenheim - as a carnivorous spectacle. Constructed with painstaking detail, ornate columns, cornices, and magnificent domes tower with warped approximation giving the scene a post-apocalyptic aura, rendering cultural heritage and power as an abject skeletal (or rawhide as the case may be) remain.


By Francesco Bonami

Recently I received an e-mail message from a curator friend inquiring about a painter and sculptor named Liu Wei. I had included his work in a show I organized in Turin called "AllLookSame?" that featured pieces by young Korean, Chinese and Japanese artists. "Do you believe that Liu Wei is just a good artist or a very good artist that will be famous in the future like Zhang Xiaogang?" my friend asked. (Zhang Xiaogang is a Chinese art star whose paintings fetch six figures.)

I am a curator, but I am not a clairvoyant. The word on Chinese art right now is "Buy!" but I'm not convinced that we Westerners really understand what's going on there. Ten years ago, a few Chinese artists, like Chen Zen or Huang Yong Ping, appeared on the West's radar screen, satisfying a certain outdated "Orientalist" craving among some collectors. People like Uli Sigg, the former Swiss ambassador to China, who counts some 1,500 pieces of Chinese and Asian art in his collection, and another Swiss citizen, Lorenz Helbling, who opened his gallery, ShanghART, in China more than a decade ago, are reaping the profits of their foresight. But now Western collectors and dealers are descending on China like a swarm of annoying and aimless flies. Actually, today's burgeoning Chinese art world depends very marginally, if at all, on the gallery establishment in New York and London. Huge crowds may jam the Miami Basel and Frieze art fairs, but those numbers are nothing compared with the potential size of the art market within China itself.

All of these things make it hard for me to answer my friend's question about Liu Wei. But the real difficulty has less to do with the dangers of market speculation than with the fact that I haven't quite figured out how a Chinese artist thinks, creates and produces a work of art.
A studio visit to an artist in Beijing is often like 10 studio visits in Brooklyn. In China, you don't find a painter, and a sculptor, and a video artist, but rather one artist who is working on painting, sculpture, photography, video and (why not?) performance all at the same time. When I visited Liu Wei in Beijing to select works for my show in Turin, he offered me not only beautiful cityscape paintings but also architectural models of famous buildings, like St. Peter's Cathedral and the Empire State Building, made from the same rubber used to make fake dog bones. (I chose a painting.) In Europe, an artist that looks for inspiration in both a pet shop and the early work of Gerhard Richter would most likely be dismissed as lacking a consistent point of view. But in China the same criteria do not apply.