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Zhou Yilun’s Animal Chairs represent the Hangzhou-based designer’s latest iconoclastic swipe at contemporary consumerist impulses

“I used to be part of this consumerist culture. I would buy all these brand name sneakers. Now I cover them with tape to make molds. The interior is hollowed out so they become a vase to hold a bouquet of flowers.” —Zhou Yilun, artist-designer


“The anthropomorphic nature of Zhou Yilun’s work really draws you in. His influences—politics, daily news, and social media—urge you to consider the validity of modern, globalized culture both within China and beyond.” —Luis Sendino, SIDE Gallery



Astonishingly prolific and unfettered to distinctions between high and low art, Hangzhou-based artist-designer Zhou Yilun draws inspiration from a disparate array of global sources—Buddhism, European Old Masters, design icons, basketball and Hip Hop culture, the detritus of throw-away consumerist societies—and mashes it all up together. The resulting images and objects stand in spirited protest to the obsession with shopping that has spread to every corner of the earth. And while his practice is decidedly multimedia, multicultural, and multifaceted, Zhou's works are unified by an electric, iconoclastic ambiguity—or is it ambiguous iconoclasm?

Zhou Yilun working with resin in his studio in Hangzhou. Photo © Side Gallery

Zhou trained as an oil painter at the China Academy of Art but quickly cast off allegiance to classicist approaches in favor of expressions that capture and critique the idiosyncrasies of the 21st century. Popular images of sports icons and religious figures along with discarded plastic consumer goods became fodder for his paintings and collages. Soon he was using found, mass-market products and raw construction materials to fabricate eccentric design objects. In 2015, he launched his own design label, R3PM3, through which he produces his furniture, furniture-like assemblages, and functional sculptures.

Animal Chair by Zhou Yilun for R3PM3, 2021. Photo © Side Gallery

For his latest furniture collection, offered through Side Gallery in Barcelona, Zhou moves beyond upcycling while furthering his commentary on the outsized role that plastics and consumerism play in our world today. Each piece results from a 3D scan of a small, hand-molded plasticine model, which is sent to a factory to be replicated at scale in high density foam. And yet they are all one-of-a-kinds, because Zhou hand finishes each with drizzled layers of brightly pigmented resin.

Detail of Animal Chair by Zhou Yilun for R3PM3, 2020. Photo © Side Gallery

According to Luis Sendino, Director of Side Gallery, this new body of work underscores that “we live in an era of omnipresent plastics.” And even though we may hope that recycling will mitigate the environmental damage that's wrought by all these petroleum products, in fact “the process of recycling them would entail greater energy consumption.” Sendino adds: “Zhou Yilun believes so-called artworks no longer exist and instead everything that individuals create, whether a painting or a piece of furniture, is a product intended to produce a profit.”

Animal Chair by Zhou Yilun for R3PM3, 2021. Photo © Side Gallery

Zhou says, “The real rebellion in this era is to give up making money. I have a monthly mortgage, so I am not rebellious at all. I am, in fact, very obedient.” ◆