With shocking streaks of blue hair and an outfit worthy of a Japanese cosplayer, Chinese artist Lu Yang has just come from lunch with French president Emmanuel Macron. About two months before the coronavirus appeared in China, the occasion is the opening on November 5 of the Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project, a satellite of the famed Paris museum better known as the Beaubourg, on a prime waterfront location by the Huangpu River in Shanghai. The flamboyant digital artist, born in 1984, seems unfazed by this brush with fame. After all, she is an art star herself, living in a city that is fast becoming China’s art capital, with more than 10 contemporary-art museums and more in the works.
Lu Yang is best known for her creation Uterus-man, a fully operational video game with an androgynous superhero who gets their superpowers from aspects of the female reproductive system, such as an electrified umbilical cord, a chariot in the shape of a pelvic bone, and the ability to switch their enemies’ sex chromosome. She also made a big splash at the 2018 Shanghai Biennale with Material World Knight, an all-encompassing video installation with references to Mars Attacks,exoskeletons, and nuclear disaster featuring miniature models of fallen cities. Nothing could be further from the scroll paintings and Ming furniture that used to represent China to the outside world. In fact, hers are the products of a new generation of Chinese artists who were born after the death of Mao and grew up with the Open Door policy, a China where Starbucks was found in the Forbidden City and quick trips to Tokyo were readily available.