Xu Bing

b. 1955, Chinese

Xu Bing utilizes traditional methods of Chinese art, such as calligraphy and rubbing, to create the most contemporary installations. One of his “letter art” is <Book from the Sky>, in which the artist printed 4,000 fake letters with wood type and displayed them like from old books. <New English Calligraphy> caused a huge sensation in the West, with alphabets seeming like Chinese characters. In <The Book from the Ground>, he made a book everyone can read using only marker characters such as emoticons.

Born in Chongqing in 1955, he was the first generation of the Chinese Avant-Garde who went through the Cultural Revolution. In 1977, he graduated from the Department of Printing at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, the only national art university in China. After the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, he was exiled to the United States to avoid the surveillance and restrictions of the Chinese government. Considering the problems of identity, tradition, language, and letter, he created a large-scale installation work with a strong visual and conceptual impact, pointing out where Eastern and Western cultures collide. Receiving the MacArthur Award in 1999 made him recognized as one of the most powerful Chinese contemporary artists of all time.

Having returned to China in 2008, he served as the vice president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. As both an artist and an educator, Xu has released works that elaborately interpret social problems in China. In <Phoenix>, for instance, he turned construction wastes into a super-large installation work to disclose the poor conditions of Chinese construction sites.

Xu participated in major international biennales such as Venice Biennale, Gwangju Biennale, Fukuoka Asia Triennale, and Sydney Biennale, and held large-scale retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum in the UK, and the Taiwan Municipal Museum of Art.