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An interview with Liu Wei
Still from Smart Museum artist interview with Liu Wei

Liu Wei 刘韡

Chinese, born 1972

Artist Profile

Growing up during the decades of drastic urban development that followed the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), Liu Wei became interested in the detritus of urban consumer culture: junked appliances and demolition debris.

These scrap materials are commonly found in the demolition sites of traditional middle-class courtyard houses and the construction sites of new high-rises in Beijing. Employing the assistance of local laborers, Liu collected and recycled these materials by hacking them apart with chainsaws, branding them with bold statements, and bolting them together to form colorful sculptural abstractions.

Each work from the Exotic Lands and the Merely a Mistake series features these reused junk materials. Whether hanging on the wall or built up into large-scale architectural structures, the works seem to suggest a futuristic metropolis. Seen again more closely, however, they reveal cuts, peeling paint, nail and screw holes, rot, and broken edges, suggesting the remains of a bygone Beijing.

“It's important for contemporary art that we have an abstract way of seeing the world . . . I just look at an image and what I see is what it is. It may be all wrong, but all these misreadings can create something new.”
—Liu Wei 1

Footnotes

  • 1

    Interview with Liu Wei, July 9, 2019, conducted by Nancy P. Lin, translated by Greg Young.

Works on View

Wrightwood 659

Merely a Mistake II No. 7, 2013

Doors and door frames, wooden beams, acrylic board, stainless steel, and iron
189 x 74 3/4 x 77 1/2 in. (480.1 x 190 x 197 cm)

The Chu Collection

Liu Wei, Merely a Mistake II No. 7, 2009–11, Doors and door frames, wooden beams, acrylic board, stainless steel, and iron. Installation view at Wrightwood 659. Courtesy of the artist Long March Space.
Liu Wei, Merely a Mistake II No. 7, 2009–11, Doors and door frames, wooden beams, acrylic board, stainless steel, and iron. Installation view at Wrightwood 659. Courtesy of the artist Long March Space.
Wrightwood 659

Exotic Lands No. 15, 2013

Wood and stainless steel
54 1/4 x 106 x 1 1/2 in. (137.8 x 270 x 3.8 cm)

The Chu Collection

Liu Wei, Exotic Lands No. 15, 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.
Liu Wei, Exotic Lands No. 15, 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.
Wrightwood 659

Exotic Lands No. 21, 2013

Wood and stainless steel
80 3/4 x 95 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. (205.1 x 242.6 x 3.8 cm)

The Chu Collection

Liu Wei, Exotic Lands No. 21, 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.
Liu Wei, Exotic Lands No. 21, 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

Working Process

Detail of a work in Liu Wei: Trilogy, Minsheng Art Museum, 2011. Photo © Thomas Fuesser.
Detail of a work in Liu Wei: Trilogy, Minsheng Art Museum, 2011. Photo © Thomas Fuesser.
Sketches for works in Liu Wei: Trilogy, Minsheng Art Museum, 2011. Photo © Thomas Fuesser.
A studio assistant joining two pieces of wood together for a work in Liu Wei: Trilogy, Minsheng Art Museum, 2011. Photo © Thomas Fuesser.
Liu Wei and two assistants examining a work for Liu Wei: Trilogy, Minsheng Art Museum, 2011. Photo © Thomas Fuesser.