Inside Saint Laurent’s Erotically-Charged Lin Zhipeng Exhibition

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Lin Zhipeng No.223 photographer Saint Laurent Rive Droite
Lin Zhipeng (AKA No.223) at Saint Laurent, Rive DroitePhotography by Lin Zhipeng, Courtesy of Saint Laurent

Anthony Vaccarello has enlisted the Beijing-based photographer to fill the label’s Rive Droite stores with tender portraits of Chinese youth

Lin Zhipeng (also known as No.223, after the lovesick policeman in Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express) has been documenting China’s counterculture for years. Through sensual portraits and suggestive still lifes, the Beijing-based photographer paints a tender picture of the young people he observes, and their lives seem to unfurl in front of his lens: moments of melancholy give way to intense joy; a culture of playful sexuality is set against a conservative political backdrop; relationships form and fall apart.

“Time can transform us as quickly as it can strengthen or tarnish our social relationships,” No.223 told AnOther last year. “This is why I have been shooting my best friends for years. Every time I see them, I take their photograph again. I would like to do this until we die, simply to express the passage of time.”

This community of friends and lovers is at the centre of No.223’s new exhibition, the latest cultural experience curated by Anthony Vaccarello for Saint Laurent’s Rive Droite stores in Paris and Los Angeles. Capturing their restless spirit, the exhibition spans several years – featuring works from 2016 to 2019 – and an even broader geographical spread, with the photographer curating intimate memories from his time in China, Tibet, Southeast Asia, Japan, and Europe.

Among the resulting images, which are also showcased in an accompanying fanzine, are humorous nudes featuring doves and pineapples – just one example of the rich flora found throughout No.223’s work – snapshots from steamy club nights, and intimate portrayals of the body that turn his subjects’ skin into a canvas for ink and shadows. The show isn’t all about baring flesh, though. More nature turns up in photos of phallic flower blossoms and scooped-out fruit (OK, so they’re still pretty provocative) and sex is approached from a more oblique angle in images of discarded swimming shorts and bottles of Durex.

The erotic charge of No.223’s work is well-trodden ground for the Rive Droite stores. Taking their name from Saint Laurent’s rive gauche line that helped democratise fashion back in the 60s, the retail-slash-exhibition spaces are conceptualised by Vaccarello and have previously played host to the likes of voyeuristic photographer Henrik Purienne, as well as a variety of musicians via its “Live Sessions” series.

Take a look at the works featured in Lin Zhipeng’s current Rive Droite exhibition, running exclusively in Paris and Los Angeles, in the gallery above.