英语中“Bund”一词来自波斯语“band”，意为筑堤码头或裸土堤坝。起初该词在16世纪被莫卧儿人带到印度；到了19世纪末期，一个来自沙宣家族（Sassoon family）的巴格达迪犹太人（Baghdadi Jew）将它带到上海。接着殖民史开始书写，浸满了大英帝国的气味，19世纪晚期“外滩”（the Bund）地区大量银行与商贸行的建筑鳞次栉比，从而逐渐成长为远东的金融中心。
外滩三号被誉为上海奢华生活风尚的头号地标，其改建将外滩从浸淫着过往殖民史的万国建筑群转变为日渐繁荣的高档餐厅与奢侈品店琳琅一条街。这座由联合保险公司（Union Assurance）建于1916年的建筑曾入驻东亚共同体（East Asiatic）与印度商业银行（Mercantile Bank of India）等机构。2000年，美国建筑师迈克尔 格雷夫斯（Michael Graves）受邀重新设计外滩三号的室内，寄望捕捉对新生城市名流的想象，所谓“上海风韵”。格雷夫斯设计的核心旨在以新古典主义风格重新演绎东西方的中庭。“东方”体现在建筑室内一系列相得益彰的实木立柱与翠绿大理石立面，赋予楼体空间戏剧性的舞台感；而光影交错的丛林试图在这座人工楼宇中唤醒一丝自然的呼吸，这也为画廊的空间风格定了调。
 瓦凌 博而励（Waling Boers），“颜磊—与瓦凌 博而励的访谈”，《摸着石头：当今中国艺术》，瓦凌 博而励、皮力著，北京东八时区出版社，2007，第147页
SUPPORT is an installation/painting project created by Beijing based artist, Yan Lei, who questions our reliance on luxurious settings to endow values in the presentation of contemporary art. In coming to terms with the historical connotations of Three on the Bund [TOTB] a building in Shanghai where this exhibition was held, Yan critiques the commoditization of art with a sense of humor and in turn questions the very meaning of cultural production.
The word Bund originates from the Persian word ‘band’, meaning an embanked quay or a muddy embankment. The term was first brought to India by the Mughals at the beginning of the 16th century and later, by a member of the Sassoon family, a Baghdadi Jew, to Shanghai in the late 19th century. Once a British settlement immersed within the history of concession, the building boom during the late 19th century brought numerous banks and trading houses to this area and gradually transformed the Bund into a financial center of the Far East.
The establishment of TOTB, reputed as the leader for defining luxury lifestyle in Shanghai, has transformed the Bund’s outlook from a past international settlement steeped within colonial history to that of a location increasingly crowded with high brow culinary and retail outlets. The building was built in 1916 by the Union Assurance Company; its past occupants included the East Asiatic and Mercantile Bank of India. In 2000, the American architect Michael Graves was commissioned to redesign the interior of Bund number three in the hopes of capturing the very imagination of an emerging class of urban socialites- Shanghai style. The center piece of Graves’ design focuses on reinterpreting the east and west atrium in a neo-classical manner. The east atrium situated inside the gallery incorporates a series of wooden pillars in combination with a green marble façade to stage a dramatic towering enclave; the interplay of light and shadow, resembling a forest, is intended to evoke naturalism in a laden building which also sets the tone for the gallery’s interior.
The atrium, Shanghai Gallery of Art
With the opening of the SGA in January of 2004, every attempt has been made to enrich this site with a sense of history and to make it a credible place in the presentation of contemporary art. Unlike the white cube gallery model which predicates on the viewing of art as a pure and neutral experience, what this gallery offers is much more- a historic building, panoramic views of Pudong and the Bund, a remarkable atrium all there to enrich an inherent meaning of the artwork on display. While many artists are deeply impressed by such prominent architectural features which define the gallery space, only a handful of artists proactively reflect upon their practice in relation to the institutional identity let alone its physical conditions for validating the artwork on view.
Yan Lei poses the question of what we may add to such a laden platform. As the building’s colonial past is featured to legitimate its commercial activities, yet there remains a void in locating its real place. What is the inherent meaning for showcasing contemporary art in such a gentrified setting? Furthermore, given that the presentation of contemporary art in the gallery falls prey to the master narrative of a luxurious environment, what is the symbiotic relationship between a regime of self-aggrandizement and an endorsement of the cultural capital of art itself? What are the other possibilities for artistic intervention at a site which has set out to validate art in the first place?
As one enters the gallery, one first observes a series of twelve large scale classical pillars; similar samples are easily found from amongst the many buildings along the Bund. In knowing that the existing pillars are in effect permanent structure which dictates the reading of artwork in the space, Yan enlarges these pillars in a direct scale to those Doric columns that are currently located at the gallery’s foyer, as a way to negotiate with its physical presence. Intended to re-historicize the site, the artist has chosen to use the mud from the Whampoa River as the “local” yet fragile material for making these artificial pillars look aged. An additional support structure is therefore provided for the gallery, but it appears if nothing has really occurred after all.
Reception area, Shanghai Gallery of Art
The Shanghai Gallery of Art / Support, Installation view
To soften the tone of an all-out institutional critique on the gallery, Yan has decided to include a series of color wheel paintings for this exhibition. Five large scale “target” paintings have been installed on the farthest possible viewing space from the gallery’s entrance, and with one edge of the paintings fledged with those of the encompassing walls. The reasoning behind placing such paintings beyond immediate normal sight is done almost by one of chances, there to satisfy our expectation to see an artwork in the most compromised manner possible in an art gallery. Made by trained workers and completed with a numeric formula in mind (as specified by the artist), the color of the focal center of one panel inside a painting reflects as the background of what follows. One may associate these paintings with the inner quality of the muddy pillars in full sight, yet the former and latter have no direct link with one another whatsoever. Should the quality of an exhibition be judged by delivering a coherent message to the public, Yan is interested in provoking a sense of unease, one that polarizes the tension between the painting’s abstract visual effects versus the imposition of an architectural order of a given space towards the extreme.
Support not only functions as a footnote to reveal the innate architectural program by making it more apparent to the audience, it invites us to contemplate the absurdity of a celebrated site, whereby displaced architectural fragments, a sole wall of a white cube space, a monolithic atrium, reconstituted remnants of a historic building- all disparate components- come together to form a blasé platform that demands a constant presence of artwork to validate itself.
Support, Installation view
During a recent interview, Yan Lei stated: “The system of working is the extension of my knowledge in the art of creating images, including the application of what I understand about light, composition, color and the system of making. What is interesting is that people sometimes don’t think I have done anything at all, or, that there is any trace of concept in it. It is good that they don’t really realize how passionate I am about these things. An artwork is like a seed. After you throw it, you don’t have any control over it.” As a critical protagonist who probes the blanketing effect of a burgeoning contemporary Chinese art market, Yan pokes fun at the actual apparatus of the business of marketing cultural differences and teases out how different ways value and meaning are attached to cultural production. Yan transcends what is given into something unpredictable that denies a common logic. Now you have the seed….
David Ho Yeung Chan
Mar 26, 2007
 Waling Boers, “Yan Lei- interviewed by Waling Boers,” in Touching the Stones- Chinese Art now, ed. Waling Boers (Beijing: Timezone 8, 2007), 147.