Cao Fei

The multimedia artist who’s preoccupied with the rapid cultural transformation of China

At just over forty, Cao (pronounced ‘Tsow’, if you didn’t know) is the generational lodestar of Chinese art and the most explicit tracker of her country’s barrelling cultural changes. Her own art has evolved accordingly fast, from landmark incursions into Second Life to recent projects predicated on change, fragmentary memory and the hazy line between the real and the virtual, such as this year’s feature-length film Nova and associated four-years-in-the-making multimedia project HX, both of which emerged out of her move to the industrial Hongxia district of Beijing after her studio was razed. Cao has lately received some blowback for her work’s emphasis on mirroring China’s developments rather than critiquing them, but it isn’t keeping international institutions from lionising her. This year Cao became the first Chinese artist to have a solo show at Paris’s Pompidou, following on from a significant survey of her work at the recently opened Tai Kwun Contemporary in Hong Kong, while next year she’s feted by the Serpentine Galleries and, on home turf, Beijing’s UCCA.