Piasa Auction House


by Morgan Morris co-fonder Perfect Crossovers, Beijing
October 25th, 2016

China today is a blossoming creative society, rich in cultural heritage, striving for a unique contemporary identity that is not merely “made in China” but rather a refreshed essence of what it means to be creative and contemporary in China today within a global context. Piasa, at the forefront of this trend, presents for the first time in Europe a panorama of three generations of Chinese Contemporary Design and, we at Perfect Crossovers, are delighted to facilitate this adventure into such an exciting realm.  A visionary exhibition, “Chinese Contemporary Design” marks the re-birth of collectible design over the past 2 decades within the context of cultural “evolution”. 

An interesting element to note is that these designers, despite varying backgrounds such as architecture, product design, fashion or art,  are all in the process of inventing a new vocabulary with which to evoke the palpable contrast between historical and contemporary China. Their work is re-contextualizing esthetic codes and traditions from the past in order to rejuvenate them into a new hybrid style for today.

The selection of Chinese design works for Piasa is particularly demonstrative of this evolution as it spans the work of 3 generations of designers starting with pioneering visionaries such as Shao Fan, Shi Jianmin, and Chen Renyi who began their design career in the early 1990’s with a focus on building a new language for contemporary design within the constraints of traditional practice, while maintaining a reverence for the balance and harmony inherent to Asian codes and esthetics.

Shao Fan’s “untitled” chair set from 1996, a beautiful abstraction of Qing dynasty forms encapsulated in Bauhaus structure is a process of reflection using design as a means of exploring the manifestations of cultural evolution and social transformation happening during the arrival of western esthetics in China.

Designers, artists and calligraphers, Shi Jianmin brings his mastery of traditional ink painting into a third dimension with his “Gold Brick” and “Love” pieces where elements of nature are transformed into polished sculptural steel furniture as iconic pieces for today’s design life. Taiwanese based Chen Renyi transforms his mastery of calligraphy into lines and swirls elaborated through re-invented traditional wood and raffia craftsmanship. Ren Xiaoyong, whose approach to the world of limited edition design shows his profound inspiration from Ming tradition with a twist on the use of materials evoking a truly contemporary attitude.

The middle generation, including Song Tao, Lin Jing and Xiao Tianyu, show a subtle evolution marked by experimentation with new materials and designs based on contemporary lines combined with references to traditional esthetics of function and form. Lin Jing, the first female designer from the 90’s with her playful bamboo tables and revisited ping pong set as well as Song Tao, with his poetic tea benches and tables, both conveys an extremely refined vocabulary of contrasts that is often characterized as the pure essence of “understated elegance” in its perpetual balance between ancient feng shui principles and cutting edge contemporary western sensibilities. Xiao Tianyu, in a very playful manner, evokes a similar passion for contrasts, by creating bulbous forms as his iconic “curve” seats that transform the rigid structure of a Ming dynasty chair back into a countryside landscape.

Within the beautiful arena that lies between art, architecture and design is born the practice of both MVW and Neri & Hu in Shanghai. Although completely different in structure and practice both are interdisciplinary from inception and continually forge new territory for architecture and design in Shanghai as well as internationally.

Neri & Hu will present for the first time 3 versions of “Spectacle” a candelabra reflective on Guy Debord’s “The Society of the Spectacle” as a glimpse on the world we live in today.  MVW the French Chinese Shanghai based duo will preview a new limited series from their precious rose jade and bronze collection. Both of these groups utilize a very precise architectural style as the basis of their approach to their design art practice.

Shi Jinsong is a unique example of a practice that uses design as a starting point for art. His prototypes are part of an intricate thought process that transforms and metamorphosis of familiar objects to an outer world status. Guo Bin, although completely different in practice, also uses design to approach art and explore a playful territory with his “piece unique” objects often based on ancient Chinese mythology.

The generation of Li Naihan, Frank Chou, Liu Feng and Zhang Zhoujie gracefully bring technology and the digitally driven generative process into the creative realm of Chinese design. First with Li Naihan, a bar designed as a foldable shipping crate and folded set of “manga” stools meet today’s demands for mobility and small space habitations of the younger generation and has entitled the works as part of the “crate series” which are all produced through high tech digitally driven machinery and minimum man power. Also highly tech driven is the conception and production of work by Zhang Zhoujie whose innovation permits a specific 3-D “generative” imaginative process.

It is very exciting to see the response and note that the interest in the dialogue between art and function has been sparked in China through the efforts of the creative design scene. Through this selection we note that despite the fact these designers are not part of a group nor share common practice, their remains the underlying common feature of determined and courageous conviction to identify and embody the true contemporary “created in china” rather than the “made in China” over the past 25 years and to bring China’s notion of design into the 21st century all the while honoring its 5000 years of majestic cultural heritage.