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What does Well-dressed Panda Wear?

Author: Wang Jie/Shanghai Daily 2008-01-11

Conceptual artist Zhao Bandi is famous for biting social commentary in photos of himself and his big toy panda - with thought bubbles. Now he's into panda couture, writes Wang Jie.

Zhao Bandi, the "panda artist," is addicted to the black-and-white icons, using his toy panda to convey irreverent insights in thought bubbles. Now Zhao has designed black-and-white "panda" fashions.

Zhou's bizarre panda couture will be displayed by six models in an exclusive show aboard the Jinmao Shengrong Yacht on the Huangpu River on the evening of January 15. The show premiered in Beijing Fashion Week in November.

The guest list is limited to 50 VIPs, including celebrities, fashionistas, artists and collectors.

For those who aren't VIPs, a film of the entire event will be screened at ShanghART Gallery at 50 Moganshan Road starting January 16.

At Beijing Fashion Week, Zhao used the medium of fashion to make statements about 33 social issues in China. One of the models was "Sister Furong," famed for her sexy photographs of herself posted on the Internet.

The Beijing-based conceptual artist is best known for photographs of himself and his toy panda; he often adds humorous thought bubbles and captions about everything from the SARS crisis to the wealth gap.

Born in 1966 in Beijing, Zhao graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1988. Since 1993, his works have been shown at international exhibitions, and his project "Zhao Bandi & Panda" has been displayed in Shanghai, Milan and London.

In 2003, during the SARS crisis, he created a photograph of himself and his panda wearing masks and dressed as guerrilla fighters. The photo was published in a national newspaper to illustrate coverage of the crisis, and Zhao sued for copyright infringement. An out-of-court settlement was reached.

But why fashion and why the Huangpu River?

"I'll tell you a story," answers Zhao. "About 100 years ago, an English lady saw a panda. She thought the animal was quite unique and exported it back home via the Huangpu River. This can be verified in records kept by customs here."

For Zhao, it seems the Huangpu River flowing by the fashionable Bund is the perfect place to make his fashion and social statements. And why not fashion for a conceptual artist?

"I like to express subtle feelings about the changes in the society by using clues from the panda," he says. "You might call it a fashion party where I will celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year with my friends on the yacht."

However, this is not a party merely for fun. There will be fashion and social messages, and the bizarre couture will be auctioned, though not for charity.

Date: January 16-31, 10am-5pm

Address: Bldg 18, 50 Moganshan Rd

Tel: 6359-3923

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