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25 Most Collectible Midcareer Artists: Xu Zhen

Author: Angela M.H. Schuster 2015-09-30

“Few have the intellectual dexterity that Xu possesses,” says gallerist James Cohan of the Conceptual artist’s multiplicity of practice. The Shanghai-based Xu, who cites “curiosity” as his primary motivation, has been making waves since his debut on the international stage at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001, where his provocative video Rainbow—documenting a change in human skin color from flesh to red, as a result of repetitive slapping—was screened.

Since 2009, the artist has been working with his collective MadeIn, its name a transliteration of the Chinese ideograph for “organization.” With the collective he’s produced two notable series, “Under Heaven,” a suite of heavily impastoed oil-on-canvas works that took center stage at the 2015 Armory Show, and “Eternity,” a collection of mixed-media collisions between Greco-Roman and Eastern sculptural traditions.

According to Cohan, who has represented the artist since 2008, the former range in price from $80,000 to $300,000, and the latter, which sold for $50,000 to $100,000 seven years ago, are now in the $1 million range.

This rise in market price has been evident not only in the gallery but on the auction block, says Jonathan Wong, senior specialist in the contemporary Asian art department at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, which has tendered several of Xu’s works in recent years. A 2011 painting, Untitled, sold for $137,062 this past spring.

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