Juju Wang: A modern traditionalist

From FORMES DE LUXE / Published on 06/29/2022

Juju Wang is a conceptual artist who has basked in both Chinese and American cultures. Today, the artist divides her time between her own artistic ventures and partnerships with luxury brands. Wang is slated to be Guest of Honor at the next edition of LUXE PACK Shanghai.

Born in Shanghai and emigrated at a young age to California, where she went on to obtain Master’s degrees at Berkley University, Chinese artist Juju Wang returned to China more than 10 years ago. Since then, the civil engineer turned installation artist has built a significant reputation in the local contemporary art world, but also abroad thanks to collaborations with luxury brands.

Wang’s work, which blends a rational, scientific approach with imaginative creativity, reflects her dual culture. “My studies gave me technical skills that have become invaluable in the work I do today: building models, a mastery of the principles of construction, an understanding of materials and their potential in different settings, while Chinese culture has brought rich history and sense of harmony into my work. By combining what can be perceived as opposite approaches, I’ve been able to strike a balance and sense of harmony in my life and in my work,” Wang tells Formes de Luxe.

One of the first cultural discoveries the artist made in China was in a village in Yunnan province, where there has been a tradition of hand-crafted paper for close to 800 years. “I spent two weeks observing how the paper was made and immersing myself in the local artisanal tradition,” she explains. She later used Dai paper, which comes in rolls measuring 3×10 meters, as the material of choice for House of Clouds, her first art installation that has since been shown in a dozen exhibitions throughout China.

Her experience was an initiation into the discovery of other traditional Chinese techniques that she would apply in her creations, including her collaboration with premium brands. “When luxury brands come to China, they want to fit in in the sense that their approach is understood by the local consumer,” Wang explains. Her solution entails calling on local handicraft traditions that she adapts to a brand’s universe. A project for Acqua di Parma in 2017 illustrates this well. For the launch in China of its peony-based perfume, the artist created a limited-edition packaging of 20 pieces that encloses a peony made with China’s traditional velvet flower technique, an art form once used to decorate a noblewoman’s hairdo with leftover materials. “This was my way of giving a new function to a traditional handicraft, while representing the fragrance in both a Chinese and Western fashion.” The box opens to reveal an oversized velvet peony inside which the fragrance bottle is nestled. The flower doubles as a brooch.

For a limited-edition Givenchy coffret, Wang opted for the inner-locked wood technique, in which layers of plywood fit together without the use of nails or glue. Destined for Chinese KOLs and celebrities, the plywood box enclosed a gold-leaf covered lipstick. “Each box is made of nine plywood components; when looked at horizontally, a Chinese landscape appears, and when viewed from above, it spells out the brand’s name. The packaging tells a story,” muses Wang.

This spring, the artist is working on a project for a premium French brand, while gearing up or her biggest-yet solo show in Chengdu in April 2023. Wang will be the Guest of Honor at LUXE PACK Shanghai’s upcoming edition, where she will exhibit Snowflakes, a steel and gold leaf installation commissioned by Audemars Piguet.