Chen Ke Celebrates The Women of Bauhaus at Perrodin, Paris

Chen Ke Celebrates The Women of Bauhaus at Perrodin, Paris

“I envision the entire exhibition as one art piece, transforming the space into a theatrical realm,” Chen Ke said late this summer. Chen, who is known for her meticulously crafted paintings, was in the process of conceptualizing her debut Paris exhibition “Bauhaus Gal—Theatre” at Perrotin, which opened January 2024..

In its final form, Chen’s intricate designs have come together in an exhibition that brings together painting and architectural photography within a playful theatrical scenography that draws from the legacy of the Bauhaus, the famed early 20th-century German applied art school.

The core of the exhibition is a luminous new group of portraits of the Bauhaus’s women students, a continuation of the artist’s ongoing “Bauhaus Gal” series. These latest works exude more drama than before, however. This shift in artmaking happened “unconsciously”, according to the artist. Some of these portraits picture women bathed in stark flashlight beams, creating intensified facial contrasts and evoking a nostalgic, sci-fi utopian ambiance.

“I recognize that this artistic shift is unusual and that the choices of characters and colors might be tied to the experiences of the last three years,” said Chen, alluding to her own psychological and emotional shifts. Her resident city, Beijing, went through several sudden lockdowns and periods of abrupt quarantines in 2023, impacting artists without a doubt. “

In the theatrical setting she has crafted in the gallery, the women in her portraits often seem to be in a self-imposed disguise. Beyond the paintings, the space is also filled with architectural and abstract works, interspersed like stage sets. Chen Ke resists being pigeonholed as merely a portrait painter, and she also values architecture’s significant role in Bauhaus history.

Conceived around 2020, the “Bauhaus Gal” series was inspired when Chen accidentally came across a Bauhaus photo book. Flipping through its pages, she felt as though she was journeying through a time tunnel. Chen found herself face-to-face with the Bauhaus women from a century prior. These women, often overshadowed by history’s narrative, resonated with Chen’s own experiences as a woman artist. Drawing from empathy and reimagination, she breathed life into the black-and-white photographs, infusing them with vivid hues, and resurrecting the tales and visages of the Bauhaus women for contemporary audiences.

While this exhibition marks Chen’s first solo show in Paris, her star has been rising for some time. More recently. Chen has ascended as one of the most popular “born after the 70s generation” of Chinese artists who are widely sought after amongst collectors (Chen was born in 1978). In 2021, Perrotin Shanghai debuted “Bauhaus Gals” and has since solidified this series as the artist’s most acclaimed and notable ones. 

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