Liu Wei /   Liu Wei

China 1972

Installation, Sculpture, Conceptual Art

Liu Wei
Liu Wei
March 27, 2017
Music, Gestalt, .

Liu Wei is regarded as one of the most prominent and fascinating artists in Chinese contemporary art and one of the leaders of his generation. He works in many types of media including installation, video, drawing, painting, and sculpture, changing the ways of his expression practically for every next exhibition and without limiting himself to one stylistic tendency. Wei is born in Beijing , China in 1972. Even though Liu is deeply rooted in the Chinese tradition and always makes reference to it, he managed to be freshly innovative and provocative on the international level with a constant dose of humor and satire. Liu Wei is constantly expanding the boundaries of his art and reflecting on the role of a contemporary artist, while at the same time originally using the gallery space in his every exhibition.

to view the varied media exhibitions in Beijing, in 2006 and 2012 check the biggest gallery and museum
Liu Wei – It looks like a landscape, 2004 – Image via archivelikeyou

Liu Wei’s Breakthrough After the Shanghai Biennale

Since an early age, he was an independent thinker with a raw and original vision. He graduated from the China Academy of Arts in 1996 with minor grades, since he was more into partying than studying at the time. As Liu recalls, he decided not to be a good student and that the studying technique wasn’t the most important thing. It was after a lecture about Andy Warhol he was inspired to pursue his artistic career more seriously. Liu’s first gallery exhibition was a part of an already famous subversive landmark show in 1999 – the underground event in a basement that promoted improvisation, irrationality, and intuition. It was the exhibition Post-Sense Sensibility, Alien Bodies and Delusion – a provocative and extreme group show of young Chinese artists who wanted to highlight their discontent with the art scene and the system. Liu Wei presented himself with the video work Hard to Restrain. But it wasn’t until 2004 that Liu Wei gained more serious attention. His work was accepted for the 2004 Shanghai Biennale, under the condition that some changes must be made. So, Liu sent a new piece of art. As he recalls: I was really angry, really angry, so I decided to show them an ass. But it looked like a Chinese landscape, so they liked it.[1] It was a mural-size photograph It looks Like a Landscape capturing naked backsides that looked like a Chinese mountain barrier. From that moment onwards Liu Wei started living from his art and became a rapidly emerging star in the art world.

view the museum canvas in Beijing gallery
Liu Wei – Don’t touch, 2011 – Image via cafaartinfo

Main Themes of Wei’s Work

Confronting the important themes with an intelligent and harsh attitude continued to color Liu Wei’s work. Modern day China, with its accelerated urbanization of the megalopolis and corrupted hierarchal lines of authority served as a great polygon for Lui’s creativity. Avoiding being bluntly critical or channeling a particular political line of thinking, Wei created some disturbingly beautiful pieces like Purple Air and Love it! Bite it! in 2006 (a model plan of a city made completely from dog chew) or ironic installations such as Indigestion II (a comically exaggerated two meters big turd), or Outcast I (an enormous hanger-size shelter made of discarded windows and doors from Chinese governmental institutions like hospitals and schools). In all of his works Liu Wei entangles a unifying sense of anxiety, aggression and excess. One could deduce a specific personal approach in Wei’s work that can be read as his gesture. On one side we can trace a logical and systematic aspect often reflected in the use of strict geometric forms and industrial materials that refer to a personal order and the restraints of political and social structures. In this Liu Wei resembles artist such as Donald Judd and Carl Andre. And on the other hand, one can single out the chaotic, turbulent disorder in his works that can be connected with Liu’s vivid imagination, a variety of media and modern societies.

Picture from Purple air series as an example of his painting style

view the gallery and museum exhibitions for varied media in 2006 and 2012 in Beijing
Liu Wei – Purple Air, 2015 – Image via cobosocial

Returning to Paintings in a New Manner

In recent work, Wei returned to oil paintings in a specific and original manner. Liu uses computer software for generating pixels and patterns after which the paint is applied on the canvas by the workers in his Beijing studio who are without any knowledge about art whatsoever. Wei usually participates with his advice and instructions, but sometimes he doesn’t intervene at all – he just lets the process find its on way of becoming an artifact. This procedure is very much in accordance with his approach to art in general. He often has a basic idea about what is he doing and what is he trying to achieve, but from the moment he starts working, he fearlessly lets himself go without conceptual interventions or rigidness of a previous idea he had. It might be that a combination of his boldness and originality is the reason he is such an acclaimed artist. Liu Wei received the Martell Artist of the Year Award in 2012 and the Atron AAC Award for Artist of the Year in 2016. He has presented numerous gallery and museum shows around the world.

Liu Wei lives and works in Beijing, China.


  1. Pollack, B, Liu Wei: China’s Trickster Mixer-Upper, Artnews [March 23, 2017]

Featured image: Liu Wei – portait photo – Image via
All images used for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Untitled11th Shanghai Biennale, Power Station of Art, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2016UntitledKochi-Muziris Biennale, Kerala, IndiaGroup
2016UntitledAichi Triennale, Nagoya, JapanGroup
2016Radical Materiality, Lehmann Maupin, Hong KongGroup
2016Chinese Whispers: Recent Art of the M+ Sigg CollectionKunstmuseum Bern, Bern,nSwitzerlandGroup
2016 Panorama, PLATEAUSamsung Museum of Art, Seoul Solo
2016Bentu, Chinese artists at a time of turbulence and transformationFondation Louis Vuitton, Paris Group
2016What About Art? Contemporary Art from Chinathe Qatar Museum, DohaGroup
2016Lehmann Maupin at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2016 Miami BeachGroup
2016StudioQiao SpaceSolo
2016Lehmann Maupin Frieze London 2016, LondonGroup
2016Liu WeiLehmann Maupin, New YorkSolo
2016Long March Space Art Basel 2016, BaselGroup
2015Liu Wei: Colorsthe Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, BeijingSolo
2015Untitled White Cube, West Bund Art & DesignGroup
2015 SilverWhite Cube, Art Basel in Hong Kong Solon
2015White Cube at Art Stage Singapore Group
2014Long March Space at Art BaselGroup
2014DensityWhite Cube, London, United KingdomSolo
2014White Cube Art Basel in Hong Kong Group
2013Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China The Metropolitan Museum of ArtGroup
2013Every Day Matters Faurschou Foundation, Copenhagen, DenmarkGroup
2013Shamans & Dissent Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong, ChinaGroup
2013UntitledArt Basel Unlimited 2013, BaselGroup
2013Re:emerge: Towards a New Cultural Cartography Sharjah Biennial, United Arab EmiratesGroup
2013Liu Wei Lehmann Maupin, New York Solo
2013West Bund 2013: A Biennial of Architecture and Contemporary Art Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2013Sharjah Biennial Re: emerge – towards a new cultural cartography Sharjah, UAEGroup
2013Void Arrow Factory, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2012Liu Wei Long March Space, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2012Liu Wei: Foreign Almine Rech Gallery, Paris, France Solo
2012The 4th Guangzhou Triennial Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2012EDIT: Image Fetish and Phobia ShanghART H – SPACE, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2012Martell Artists of the Year Today Art Museum, Beijing; Guangdong Art Museum, Guangzhou; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; ChinaGroup
2012La Chambre Claire Taikang Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2012Inside the White Cube White Cube Bermondsey, London, UKGroup
2012CIGE China World Trade Centre, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2012Adumbration Exhibition re-C Art Space, Chengdu, ChinaGroup
2012Water Stains On The Wall – The Carrier of Formation Zhejiang Art Museum, Zhejiang, ChinaGroup
2011UntitledArt Brussels,Brussels, BelgiumGroup
2011Myriad Beings Today Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2011Trilogy Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2011About Painting Art Berlin Contemporary, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2011Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2011Frieze London, U.K.Group
2011FIAC Paris, FranceGroup
2011Credit Suisse Today Art Award 2011 Finalists Exhibition Today Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2011UntitledArt Basel, Basel, SwitzerlandGroup
2011The Shape of Time – the multinarrative history in contemporary Chinese art Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2011Thirty years of Chinese Contemporary Art – Moving Image in China 1988-2011 Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2011Shanshui Lucerne Museum of Art, Lucerne, SwitzerlandGroup
2011The Hague under the Heaven The Hague Sculpture, The Hague, NetherlandsGroup
2011ACT>TION – video exhibition Long March Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2010DREAMLANDS Centre Pompidou, Paris, FranceGroup
2010State of Things, Exhibition of the Contemporary Art Exchange between China and Belgium National Art Museum of China, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2010Roundtrip: Beijing, New York NOW, Selections from the Domus Collection Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2010Long March Project Ho Chi Minh Trail, Long March Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2010Shanghai Biennale Rehearsal Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2010Breaking Forecast- 8 Key Figures of China, New Generation Artists Ullens Center for Contemporary Art,Beijing, ChinaGroup
2010Diversion Era: Liu Wei CAN Foundation, Seoul, South KoreaSolo
2009The Big World: Recent Art From China, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, USAGroup
2009Breaking Forecast – 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation Artists, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2009The Forgotten Experience Galerie Hussenot, Paris, FranceSolo
2009Yes, That's All Beors-Li Gallery, Beijing, China Solo
2009UntitledArt Basel, Basel, SwitzerlandGroup
2009ShContemporary 09 Asia-Pacific Contemporary Art Fair Shanghai Exhibition Center, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2009State of Things, Exhibition of the Contemporary Art Exchange between China and Belgium BOZAR Center for the Arts,Brussels, BelgiumGroup
2009The New Attitude of Image Tang Contemporary, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2009Bourgeoisified Proletariat ShanghART Songjiang Creative Studio, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2009Farewell to Postcolonialism Third Guangzhou Triennial, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2008Expenditure Busan Biennale, Busan, South KoreaGroup
2008Building Code Violations II Long March Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008Revolution Continues Saatchi Gallery, London, U.K.Group
2008The Borders of Utopia Beijing Today Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008Farewell to Postcolonialism Third Guangzhou Triennial, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2008Upcoming: New World Order Groninger Museum, Groningen, NetherlandsGroup
2008Community of Tastes Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008Our Future Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008Sprout from White Nights Bonnierskonsthall, Stockholm, SwedenGroup
2008Dior and Chinese Artists Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008Mahjong: Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, USAGroup
2008CYLWXZ Esther Schipper Gallery, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2007The History of a Decade that Has Not Yet Been Named Ninth Lyon Biennale, Lyon, FranceGroup
2007NONO Long March Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
20077 Characters: New Art from China Mayor Gallery, London, UKGroup
2007China Now Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, The NetherlandsGroup
2007Lyon Biennial 2007 Lyon, FranceGroup
2007China Power Station: Part II Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo, NorwayGroup
2007Barcelona-Paris-Pekin Espace Cultural Ample, Barcelona, SpainGroup
2007Year of the Golden Pig: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork, IrelandGroup
2007Art in Motion: Chinese Contemporary Art Meets the BMW Art Cars Long March Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2007The Outcast UniversalStudios-Beijing, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2007Love It, Bite It China Art Archives and Warehouse, Beijing, China Solo
2006Property of L.W Beijing Commune, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2006Purple Air Grace Li Gallery, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2006Fiction@Love MOCA Shanghai , Shanghai Group
2006Contemporary China PKM Gallery, Seoul , KoreaSolo
2006Yellow box Qingpu, Shanghai , ChinaGroup
2006The second space for contemporary ink work -idylls and visions Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou , ChinaGroup
2006ALLLOOKSAME?TUTTTUGUALE? Art from China , Korea and Japan, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin , ItalyGroup
2006The 4th Seoul International Media Art Biennale Seoul Museum of Art , Seoul , KoreaGroup
2006Long March Capital Long March Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2006Thirty-Eight Solo Exhibitions Creative Garden, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2006The Twelve: Chinese Contemporary Art Awards Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2006Idylls and Visions: The Second Space for Contemporary Ink Work Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2006It's All Right! BizArt Art Center, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2006City Limits: Shanghai and Los Angeles University Art Museum, Long Beach, USAGroup
2006China Now Sammlung Essl - Kunsthaus, Klosterneuberg, GermanyGroup
2004-2006Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video From China The Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, USA; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA; International Center for Photography, New York, USAGroup
2005Battlefield: The Courtyard Gallery Annex, Beijing Solo
2005The Second Guangzhou Triennial Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
200551st Venice Biennale Venice, ItalyGroup
2005MahjongBern, SwitzerlandGroup
2005First Nanjing Triennial Nanjing, ChinaGroup
2005The New Long March Space Inaugural Exhibition Long March Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2005Outside Long March Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2005Beyond: The 2nd Guangzhou Triennial Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2005Something's Happening BizArt Art Center, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2005Regeneration: Contemporary Chinese Art from China and the US Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, USAGroup
2004Chinese Eyes: Contemporary Photography from China Goedhuis Contemporary, New York, USAGroup
2004Shanghai Biennale Techniques of the Visible: Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2004Regeneration touring exhibition, USAGroup
2004Exhibitions Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China International Center of Photography and The Asia Society, New York, Smart Museum of Art (touring exhibition)Group
2004UntitledMuseum of Contemporary, Chicago, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA; Art House of World Cultures, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2003Open Sky Duolun Museum of Art, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2003The Fifth System: Public Art in the Age of Post-Planning Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
2003Together with Migrant Today Art Gallery, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2003Double Time China Academy of Fine Arts, Huangzhou, ChinaGroup
2003Second Hand Reality Today Art Gallery, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2003Refine 798 798, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2003Hello, Comrade Mingong Today Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2003Nasty BizArt Art Center, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2002The First Guangzhou Triennial Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2002Mirage Godot Art Museum, Suzhou Art Museum, Suzhou, ChinaGroup
2002Everyday Attitude: An Exhibition of Chinese Photo-Based Arts Pingyao, Shanxi, ChinaGroup
2002Too Much Flavour 3H Art Center, Shanghai, China; Avant-Garde, Hakaren, SingaporeGroup
2001Post-Sensibility Spree Beijing Film Academy, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2001Non-Linear Narrative Gallery of National Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou, ChinaGroup
2001Mantic Ecstasy Impression Gallery, Hangzhou; Bizart Art Center, Shanghai; LoftGroup
2001UntitledNew Media Art Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
200116th Asian International Art Exhibition Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2001Hong Kong International Video Festival, Museum of Circumstance, Hong Kong, ChinaGroup
2001The Reaping Beijing, ChinaGroup
2000Portraits, Figures, Couples and Groups BizArt Art Center, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2000UntitledCity Zoom, GermanGroup
2000Hong Kong International Video Festival Hong Kong, ChinaGroup
2000Chinese Landscape - Concept Photography Exhibition Beijing, ChinaGroup
2000Home? Contemporary Art Project Yuexing Furniture Warehouse, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1999Art for Sale Shanghai Plaza, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1999Beijing in London Institute of Contemporary Art, London, UKGroup
1999Post-Sensibility: Alien Bodies and Delusion Shaoyaoju, Beijing, ChinaGroup
1999Supermarket Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1999Hong Kong International Video Festival Museum of Circumstance, Hong Kong, ChinaGroup
1999People Have changed Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1999Culture Life Shanghai, ChinaGroup
1998Consider Oneself and Surroundings Beijing, ChinaGroup