Chinese photographer Shen Wei captures intimate portraits of himself, friends, and strangers in unflinchingly realized photographs. In order to highlight the overt sexuality and sexual freedom of the U.S., Shen often draws from a stark contrast: his personal experience growing up in highly sensitive, conservative Chinese culture. For example, Shen garnered widespread attention for his Almost Naked series, in which he photographed strangers he encountered while traveling across America—they appear vulnerable and in varying stages of nakedness. As the artist puts it, the series was “inspired by my upbringing in conservative China and motivated by my passion to understand the complexity of emotion, desire, introspection, and instinct.” Shen’s later series include Chinese Sentiment (picturing images of both public and private isolation in Shanghai with detached voyeurism) and I Miss You Already, one of his best-known series, for which he took himself as subject. In so doing, Shen photographed himself nude and engaged in a variety of rituals, some quotidian like drinking tea or taking out trash, some more romantic such as lounging in a pond or exploring the ruins of Angkor, and some provocative—sharing a bed with two women, for instance.
Born in a small town near Shanghai, Shen studied decorative art at Shanghai Light Industry College before going on to study at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. There, he fell under the influence of the enigmatic, often grotesque work of Diane Arbus and soon relocated to New York City to get his MFA at the School of Visual Arts, graduating in 2006. His work has been shown at galleries and institutions around the world, including at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. He lives and works in New York City and Shanghai.
Shen Wei Gallery Art
L.A. Galerie Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt, Germany
Moproo, Shanghai, China
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
Museum of Chinese in America, New York, NY