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April 15, 2016

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‘Supermarket’ sells nothing but air

A recently launched “supermarket” art installation on Yuyuan Road featuring shelves stocked with empty containers has become a hit with “consumers.”

In “Xuzhen Supermarket,” products, which are packaged like those in ordinary stores, are sold at the normal retail price. Despite the fact that they are empty, the store has rung up hundreds of yuan in sales each day.

It is also the first time that the supermarket, which initially appeared in gallery shows and art fairs, has been set up on a real street to attract ordinary passers-by.

Shanghai Daily saw five passers-by walk into the store in a 30-minute period looking to buy something. However, they left looking confused and frustrated after being told that all the products on the shelves were fake.

“I feel it is meaningless and a waste,” a local resident, surnamed Qiu, told Shanghai Daily. The 68-year-old walked in to buy a drink and felt frustrated when he discovered everything was empty.

“I can’t understand why people would pay for an empty package.”

But others have been drawn to the novel enterprise.

“I will use the cans to play a joke on my friends,” said 18-year-old student Zhu Shixu, who decided to check out the store with his girlfriend after reading an online post about it. Most visitors, however, would rather “window shop” than actually buy something.

According to 23-year-old shop assistant Carey Zhang, one of six volunteers working on the art project, empty drink cans are the biggest seller.

“A man bought over 200 yuan worth of empty cans on Wednesday,” she said.

“We had an elderly customer who bought our products to do magic for his grandson,” Zhang added.

“He told us that his grandson was so happy and he came here two more times to buy more.”

Jenny Chen, a project organizer, told Shanghai Daily the purpose of the art installation is to make visitors contemplate the emptiness of mass consumption.

“By bringing the installation out of galleries, the project attracts a more diverse audience, making it more complete,” Chen said.

She added that all products were purchased at normal shops and “emptied” using a special technique. Chen declined to reveal how they managed to do it without damaging the packaging.

The project organizers were invited by the district to enhance the artistic atmosphere of Yuyuan Road as part of the Art Yuyuan program. The project cost 100,000 yuan to set up.

“Xuzhen Supermarket” is located at 1386 Yuyuan Road in Changning District and is open between 7am and 12pm until April 29.


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