Zhang Dali’s ‘Meta-Morphosis’ on display at Palazzo Fava


Father of Chinese street art’s first anthology

Zhang Dali signing autographs.

Zhang Dali signing autographs at the private dinner in Palazzo Pepoli.

The father of Chinese street art in the nineties, now among the greatest artists of his country and the world, arrived in the city for his first Italian anthology entitled ‘Meta-Morphosis’, at Palazzo Fava until June 24, with Marina Timoteo as curator. Zhang Dali arrived in Bologna twenty years ago having escaped the fateful events of Tiananmen Square. In search of a new homeland he discovered Western art as a symbol of continuous transformation.

Demonstrating his artistic approach to tell the transformation of his country is the leitmotif of his production without borders and, as a master of nonconformity, he wisely states, “in the moment in which marginal street art became a trend and was accepted, he stopped doing it.” He had already begun working in our city but continued in China after he returned in 1995. He bought the first spray cans that appeared on the market for painting cars, in which the Chinese were eventually able to buy.

Born in 1963, he became famous as ‘AK-47’ and used the profile tag of a man sprayed on the demolition walls in the hutongs of Beijing (the alleys of the old city). He then personally opened the doors to an unprecedented perception of the present that destroys the past. This street art is destined, however, to disappear and all that remains is to photograph it, as the exhibition will show. “The act of street art is very important,” explains Dali, “and it is important to go back to the place to photograph it, so as to leave a record of your deed.” He then adds: “The whole world is destroyed, there is nothing that remains forever, even those beautiful paintings you see on paper or bronze sculptures, everything will be destroyed. It is a question of time, more or less brief, because there is no eternity in human works, it is the moment when you make them that is eternal.”

Dali with friends from the Chinese community Bologna.

Dali with friends from the Chinese community Bologna.

With Fabio Roversi Monaco, Director Musei Genus Bononiae.

With Fabio Roversi Monaco, Director Musei Genus Bononiae.

Behind the 30 years of Dali’s art, narrated in nine sections and with 220 works including sculptures, paintings, photographs and installations, there is always the sensitivity of an artist who stands by in Chinese society observing it, recording the fast changes. The large acrylic portraits on vinyl canvas are depicted in 2000, depicting men and women with the print of their initials: “‘AK-47’ like the Soviet assault rifle,” says the artist. “It’s a brand known by those who grew up in the fifties and sixties. For me it is the violence of transformation that affects the life and the bodies of people, it is the Soviet culture imposed in China in the name of collectivism and to deny the individual.”

Dali then asks about his own works: “How much people are able to bear them?” Another look at the usurpation, narrated this time with sculpture, in the Chinese Offspring section, dedicated to migrant workers: from 2004-2010, which he reproduced in casts, bodies of peasants who came to the city to look for work, witnesses of a moment of urbanization epic, “in which every ideal has been lost.” The effect is really like a shot from a gun.

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