ARTIST TO WATCH
We scan the news every day, and some new artists and new trends emerge out of the cloud of informaton bigger, bolder and brighter than the rest. This is the first in an occasional series in which we beam in and take an in-depth look at one artist or art trend.
Cao Fei is a female artist who was born in 1978 in Guangzhou, China and is now based in Beijing.
What people are saying
Red Mansion Foundation, London: “Cao Fei is no doubt one of the most remarkable and powerful artists of this generation.”
Serpentine Gallery London: “Cao Fei is one of the pre-eminent Chinese artists of her generation.”
About the art
Photographs, videos and installations.
Influences include superheros, avatars, electronic entertainment, pop music, TV drama, computer games and new subcultures such as Japanese manga, American rap and Hong Kong films.
Why her work is interesting
Cao Fei fearlessly experiments with new media, in particular virtual media such as Second Life. She is fascinated by the contrast between urban reality and fantasy-perfect etopia and how it is possible to move between the two at the flick of a switch. Her art presents the issues and zeitgeist of her generation.
“[I am interested in] the premise that people can choose characters that are very different from their real selves. They can use their character to create a ‘second life’, to change their friends, family, and lifestyle — like switching a TV channel,” says Cao Fei in an interview with Artkrush.
“I started to confuse my two lives, and so I compared them. The younger generation, like 15-18 year olds, I don’t think they ask as many of these questions; that kind of lifestyle is their real life — they belong to a technological world — but for my generation, we will always compare virtual and real,” she continues.
She first attracted international attention in 2004 with COSplayers, a video and photo series about Guangzhou teens dressing up as Japanese manga characters.
At the 52nd Venice Biennale 2007, she premiered China Tracy Pavilion, a project exploring the virtual worlds of Second Life that merged role-playing, ethnographic documentary, and animation.
After discovering Second Life, Fei embarked on a six-month journey through the wonders of the digital realm, as China Tracy, and many came across her through a YouTube stream in which she introduced herself in machinima footage with Chinese subtitles.
According to Fei, all sorts of typical activities occurred during that period: “Fly, chat, build, teleport, buy, sex, add friends, snapshot….”
These experiences were documented and generated the three-part, thirty-minute epic, ‘i.Mirror’ that Fei exhibited at Venice’s Arsenale back garden as well as on YouTube.
A recent project RMB City, an online art community in the virtual world of Second Life is on show at the Serpentine Gallery and on-line.
Institutions and collectors are invited to buy buildings in RMB City and programme events and activities in them. The project is an experiment exploring the creative relationship between real and virtual space.
Cao Fei has exhibited around the world in premier institutions such as Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing, Mori Museum Tokyo, San Francisco Art Instute, Serpentine Gallery and Red Mansion Foundation.
She has been shown at the Venice Biennale, Istanbul Biennial, Taipei Biennial, Biennale of Sydney and her work has been included in important survey exhibitions such as “Between Past and Future – New Photography andVideo from China” Asia Society New York.
Collectors of her work include Guy Ullens, Carnegie Museum of Art, The Israel Museum, Uli Sigg, Guan Yi amongst others.The famous Chinese collector Guan Yi names Cao Fei along with a handful of other artists as an important artist of her generation.
In the Siemens sponsored art project “What are you doing here?”, the artist Cao Fei worked with employees from subsidiary OSRAM China Lighting to turn their individual ideas, hopes and expectations into art.
As at September 1 2008, Cao Fei is still much under-appreciated at auction. She has only had 3 photographs at auction, one at China Guardian May 2007 which sold for US$21,890 including premium (over double the estimate) and two at Sotheby’s New York 2007 which were bought in.
Where to buy
See (in new window):
- Cao Fei’s website
- Cao Fei’s up to date bio on artfacts.net
- Latest price history on artnet artprice findartinfo
- more posts on Cao Fei including participation in Mori Art Museum video weekend 2008, Ullens Center show 2008, RMB City at the Serpentine to 2009
- Cao Fei excerpt from Robert Adanto documentary video ‘The Rising Tide’ on Saatchi website
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