The story of Michael Chow (b. 1939, Shanghai) is that of an improbable icon, a global cultural actor decades before globalization became the norm. Chow is the son of Zhou Xinfang, celebrated Beijing opera master and founder of the Qi School of performance. Fate did not allow him to pursue his youthful ambitions, to follow in his father’s footsteps or carve out a space for himself within the London contemporary art scene, dreams cultivated in equal parts by his schooling at the Saint Martin’s School of Art and his father’s theatrical tutelage. Chow opened the first of his restaurants in London in 1968. Today, MR CHOW operates in six locations around the world and has become synonymous with both high-end Chinese cuisine and the diverse set of artists and cultural luminaries for whom the restaurant was (and remains) a social hub. Returning to fine art practice after a forty-six-year hiatus, Chow adopts a style as dynamic and eclectic as his history―one that embodies, physically and symbolically, a distinctly Chinese twentieth-century cosmopolitanism.
The exhibition comprises three sections. The first section includes several large scale paintings, including a diptych spanning 24 feet long, plus twenty Works On Fire specially made for the Power Station of Art (PSA). Chow’s style reflects the visual traditions of Chinese art, Western abstract expressionism, and, perhaps most significantly, the bold gestures of Qi School Beijing opera. Composed of household paint, precious metals, and found materials, this “Qi School Expressionism” evokes a visceral sense of movement and object, spontaneity and control, chaos and harmony. Linking the artist’s practice to his longstanding engagement with the contemporary art communities of New York and LA, the second part of the exhibition contains several works from Chow’s portrait collection. Pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Urs Fischer, and other contemporary artists in the Western world bear witness to the friendship between the masters and Chow. The third section of the exhibition constitutes over one hundred archival stage photos of Zhou Xinfang. The Qi School of Beijing Opera that he conceived has become a way of life for Chow and one that he puts into practice in his daily life. Seen as both an artistic construction and microcosm for a larger movement, the evolution of the Qi School reflects the complex history and cultural memory of the modern China.
The exhibition of “Michael Chow: Voice For My Father” at PSA coincides with the 120th anniversary of Zhou Xinfang’s birth in January 2015. The show will travel to the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh in February 2016 after the presentation of PSA in April 2015.
About the exhibition
Curator: Xiang Liping
Venue: 5F, Power Station of Art
Organizer: Power Station of Art
Courtesy of the artist and Power Station of Art, for further information please visit www.powerstationofart.com.