The Chinese artist Xu Zhen has a number of controversial exhibitions to his name, one of the most amusing being an exact replica of a Shanghai convenience store installed at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2007, with product packages, registers and cashiers – a riff on the shop within the art fair “shop”. Now Xu’s latest idea is an exhibition of Middle Eastern contemporary art curated by “Madeln” in New York’s Cohan gallery, opening on September 10. Except that it’s not Middle Eastern art at all, but all by Xu himself, and Madeln is, again, Xu.
The works feature camels, political cartoons and calligraphy, and seem to be a wry comment on the way the art market responds to market pressures and western expectations. During the last art boom, Chinese artists cranked out predictable series of laughing Maos or family portraits; in this show, Xu seems to be saying that they can do Middle Eastern art just as well.