Artist Brian Jungen to represent Vancouver at Shanghai Biennale

Brian Jungen will be the artist representing Vancouver at the 2012 Shanghai Biennale, an international contemporary art forum beginning Oct. 2.
Brian Jungen's Cetology (2002) is a large installation created from plastic chairs. He will represent Vancouver at the Shanghai Biennale. (Trevor Mills/Vancouver Art Gallery)

Brian Jungen will be the artist representing Vancouver at the 2012 Shanghai Biennale, an international contemporary art forum beginning Oct. 2.

Jungen, who is of Swiss and Dunne-za First Nations heritage, will represent the city of Vancouver at the Biennale, which is presenting city pavilions for the first time in its 16-year history.

Vancouver is the only Canadian city selected.

Popular installations from shoes, plastic chairs

The Vancouver Art Gallery chose Jungen, saying that his work adheres to the Biennale's theme of reactivation.

Brian Jungen is to take his art to the Shanghai Biennale. (Catriona Jefferies Gallery)

Among the internationally known artist's most popular works are Prototype for New Understanding #2, in which he transforms Nike sneakers into Northwest Coast native masks, and Cetology, in which cut-up plastic patio chairs are fashioned into a whale-like skeleton.

"Almost everything in our society is disposable and I want to slow down that mass deterioration into the landfill, and channel it into another direction, into the museum," Jungen said in a statement issued by the VAG.

Born in Fort St. John, B.C., Jungen graduated from Vancouver's Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1992. He was the inaugural winner of the Sobey Art Award in 2002 and won prestigious the Gershon Iskowitz Prize in 2010. His self-titled solo show has travelled to New York, Rotterdam and Munich, while Washington's Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian has also staged a major retrospective of his work.

International showcase

VAG director Kathleen Bartels says the gallery is participating in the Shanghai Biennale as part of its commitment to the artists of Asia Pacific.

"This prestigious event represents a unique opportunity to showcase one of our pre-eminent artists on the international stage and we’re delighted to take part in this important presentation with colleagues and other major art institutions from around the world," she said.

The Vancouver gallery's chief curator, Daina Augaitis, is populating the pavilion with Jungen works from the VAG's collection.

Other cities participating in the Shanghai Biennale include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Mumbai, San Francisco and Tehran. About 600,000 to 800,000 people are expected to visit the Biennale between Oct. 2 and March 31, 2013. The cities event remains until Dec. 31.

The Biennale will take place in the new Shanghai Contemporary Art Museum, which is housed in a restored thermal plant.