Zhao Zhao, Ai Weiwei’s Former Assistant, Is Leading China’s Young Generation of Artists

Born in 1982, Zhao Zhao is one of the artists participating in “ON │OFF: China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice,” an exhibition that just opened at Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. Zhao is one of China’s most promising young artists and often tackles provocative subjects. A shipment of his work for a scheduled solo exhibition in New York last year was confiscated by Chinese customs authorities before leaving the country. His new work, on view at UCCA, is composed of smaller stone cuts from damaged Buddha sculptures stacked into a perfect cube.

Zhao worked for seven years as an assistant for Ai Weiwei, the well-known artist and outspoken government critic who was imprisoned for 81 days in 2011. Zhao, 31, and Ai, 55, represent two generations of Chinese contemporary artists. While works by Ai’s generation are fetching high prices in today’s art market — and dominating most of the attention given to Chinese contemporary art — Zhao’s generation is quietly catching up. UCCA, a well-respected, not-for-profit art center in Beijing, is giving this young generation due credit by dedicating its first show of 2013 to them.

Having grown up in a very different environment from their parents’ generation, these artists presented some exciting new focuses and approaches in their art practices, and “they are not interested in singular symbols of one reality,” UCCA director Philip Tinari told ARTINFO during a recent video interview.

Watch ARTINFO’s video tour of “ON │OFF” with Tinari here.

— Tom Chen