The Portuguese street artist VHILS and his team recently descended upon Shanghai to do their sculpture-cum-portraiture thing, on the walls of a few unnamed residences currently being chai’d.
For his work in Shanghai, VHILS uses the portraits of evicted tenants as a template for murals carved on the crumbling walls of houses being destroyed, and works with chisels, hammers and other tools regularly used by crews employed to demolish the same households. The resulting murals serve as temporary tributes to forgotten tenants, many of whom mostly fight in vain to keep their homes.
The 24-year-old artist, legal name Alexandre Farto, is among a number of notable street artists (a group which includes the sort of stencilers, poster makers and graffiti artists) featured in Steve Lazirides’ Outsiders (2008), a hefty compendium of some of the scene’s more notable artists.
Locally, his work can be seen at M50 Creative Garden and Red Town, as well as other art spaces.
And though many will see VHILS’ work in a positive light, some will dispute the merits of a jet-setting foreign artist flying into Shanghai to create work which can be read as socio-political commentary of China’s development.
Why does VHILS have to focus on the poor, and can’t he show an upwardly mobile middle-class Chinese individual whose quality of life has improved thanks to the wise planning of central and local governments! And so on.
For The Atlantic’s take on the phenomenon of eviction and home demolishment in Beijing (also applicable to Shanghai), click here.