Xuzhen Supermarket installation heads for auction

A conceptual work of art that satirises consumerism in the form of a Chinese convenience store that sells only empty packaging is going to auction at Sotheby’s.

The concept, Xuzhen Supermarket, was conceived by Chinese contemporary artist Xu Zhen and replicates a Chinese convenience store, housing a functioning cash register and an assortment of familiar merchandise available for visitors to purchase at normal retail prices. Each item lacks content, consisting only of its packaging.

For visitors, each act of purchasing – or not purchasing – and corresponding thought-process, is intended to contribute to a critique on consumerism, advertising and global capitalism. The fact that the work itself is offered for sale at auction seeks to add to the irony.

An installation of the concept will be open for public participation during Sotheby’s auction previews in Shanghai (September 1-2) and Beijing (September 4-5) – where all merchandise will be available for purchase – before the work is presented in Hong Kong (September 28-30) for exhibition only.

Artist Xu Zhen commented: “This truly ground-breaking collaboration with Sotheby’s marks the first time in auction history a supermarket [concept] will go on sale. I am delighted that Xuzhen Supermarket will be offered at an international auction, which escalates the work to a new level of breaking boundaries and disrupting preconceptions about art and daily life.”

The buyer of Xuzhen Supermarket will obtain the right to commission new physical recreations and enactments of the concept, to be executed by Xu Zhen.


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