Alexander Brandt

Art for Sale 1999, Shanghai, Shanghai Center Shopping Mall

Curators: Alexander Brandt, Xu Zhen, Yang Zhen Zhong

In Shanghai, at the turning of the millennium, Commerce was rapidly becoming the new "religion" of post-communist society. Despite decades of ideological propaganda, all of a sudden everything was for sale. Shopping centers ― the city's new temples ― were erected everywhere. Consumption was becoming the key mechanism of life in this city. The question was: "How will art and artists function within this changed system?" The exhibition concept was to confront art with its contemporary environment, the showing of art with the act of shopping.

In the large Shanghai Center Shopping Mall, visitors were attracted to enter into a regular looking supermarket, complete with shelves full with packaged, serially produced products, shop-assistants, and a cashier.
Only every product was, in fact, an artwork for sale at low prices. Passing through this supermarket the audience continued into a larger more conventional art exhibition space, showing videos, installations, performances, paintings, and photography about the same subject of contemporary life in times of rapid socio-cultural transition. Afraid of inciting public outrage, the city authorities closed the exhibition prematurely after only three days.

Until the present day, "Art for Sale" is considered one of the most influential exhibitions in the advent of Chinese contemporary art, and in 2017 it was prominently featured in a retrospective about Chinese Art in the Guggenheim Museum in New York.