Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibit Coming to Buffalo

Albright-Knox Art Gallery and University at Buffalo Art Galleries Join in Historic Collaboration with Chinese Art Museum

Release Date: August 29, 2005


Related Multimedia

In "Ghosts Pounding the Wall" by Xu Bing, impressions on rice paper form a large scroll mourning China's Great Wall. (Image courtesy of Xu Bing)

Zheng Lianjie's Binding the Lost Souls: Big Explosion '93 Series documents a performance on the Great Wall in which bricks that had fallen over time were wrapped in red ribbon and placed on the wall. (Image courtesy of Zheng Lianjie)

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The most ambitious exhibition of contemporary Chinese art to travel beyond China will be presented this fall by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the University at Buffalo Art Galleries after its debut in Beijing this summer at the Millennium Art Museum.

"The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art" is the first collaboration between U.S. art museums and a significant Chinese art museum to focus on contemporary Chinese art.

Because of its size and scope, "The Wall" will be installed at three venues: the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, the UB Art Gallery in the Center for the Arts on UB's North Campus in Amherst, and the UB Anderson Gallery on Martha Jackson Place in Buffalo. The exhibition will open to the public on Oct. 21 and remain on view through Jan. 29, 2006.

Gao Minglu organized "The Wall" during his tenure as assistant professor in the Department of Art History of the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

A leading authority on 20th- and 21st-century Chinese art, Gao was curator of Inside Out: New Chinese Art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1998 and the Chinese section of the Conceptual Art: Point Of Origin 1950s-1980s exhibition, sponsored by the Queens Museum in New York in 1999.

While the Great Wall certainly will come to the minds of visitors to the exhibition, Gao says there are several interpretations of walls in Chinese culture. "'The Wall' can be interpreted as a physical or architectural form such as the Great Wall or other various walls in a living space; as a modernization project that has posed a challenge in China such as the Three Gorges Dam Project; or as a cultural and social boundary experienced by Chinese citizens," said Gao, associate professor of East Asian modern and contemporary art in the History of Art and Architecture Department at the University of Pittsburgh. "These three interpretations provide the intellectual framework for the exhibition."

Zheng Lianjie's Binding the Lost Souls: Big Explosion '93 Series, 1993, documents a performance on the Great Wall. The photographs show bricks salvaged from where they had fallen over time, wrapped in red ribbon, and placed randomly along the top of the wall as far as the eye can see. The performers have thus "rebuilt" the wall but changed its physical character in the process.

In Xu Bing's Ghosts Pounding the Wall, 1992, the artist and a crew of assistants made ink impressions of the Great Wall on rice paper by using a technique traditionally used in the reproduction of fine calligraphy. The impressions form a large scroll, which ends in a tomb-like pile of dirt mourning the historical icon. The work is both monumental and funereal, while conveying intellectual skepticism and ambivalence towards the traditional memory presented in the Great Wall.

"The Wall" will also survey how the current practice of art making, though embedded in the tradition of Chinese civilization, reflects the complicated and rapidly changing Chinese cultural landscape and China's transformation from an agricultural society to a modern, urbanized country. Most of the research and selection of works have been completed on-site in different regions of China. As a result, the organizers have discovered many talented, emerging artists.

In all, approximately 83 works by 47 artists will be on view at the three venues. Buffalo is the only North American venue for the exhibition, which comes as interest in Chinese contemporary art has recently begun to increase dramatically here and in Europe. Many of the works have never before been seen outside China.

"The Wall" will be a significant interdisciplinary cultural event that will also include the publication of a 450-page bilingual catalogue, film screenings, educational programming for children and adults and art performances.

In addition, a multidisciplinary, international research conference, "The Roles and Representations of Walls in the Reshaping of Chinese Modernity," is planned for Oct. 20-23 in Buffalo, to coincide with the opening weekend of "The Wall" exhibition. Organized by UB, the conference will explore physical, social and other kinds of walls in the process of rethinking the nature of modernity with particular reference to twentieth century China. The conference will involve approximately 25 presenter/participants from the People's Republic of China, Taiwan and North America.

"Presenting the conference in conjunction with "The Wall" exhibition and its associated programming will provide rich and unique opportunities for scholarship," said UB President John B. Simpson. "The University at Buffalo is proud to provide a forum for this important and unprecedented conversation, which we believe represents a significant milestone in the increasing number of cultural and educational exchanges between East and West."

Professor Arthur Waldron, author of the widely acclaimed The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth, will deliver an opening keynote address, "The Great Wall of China: The Author's Reflections after Fifteen Years," on Oct. 20. The conference will close on Oct. 23 with an address by exhibition curator Gao Minglu. More information on the conference is available at

UB decided to join in a collaboration with the Millennium Art Museum in Beijing and bring in the Albright-Knox as a partner after Gao approached Sandra H. Olsen, Ph.D., director of the UB Art Galleries.

"This international collaboration provides unprecedented opportunities for cross-cultural study and dialogue," Olsen said. "Dedicated to the university's mission for academic excellence, "The Wall" affords UB Art Galleries with the opportunity to support faculty research and an important bi-lingual publication, which provides Western and Chinese audiences with a thorough and culturally focused examination of contemporary Chinese art."

"The Wall" is also one of the most important art exhibitions ever to be presented in the bi-national Buffalo-Niagara region, said Albright-Knox Director Louis Grachos. "The Albright-Knox joined this groundbreaking project with great enthusiasm because the exhibition helps us to fulfill our mission to exhibit the best and most significant contemporary art in the world," Grachos said.

The assistant curator of film for the project is Bingyi Huang, who recently received her doctorate in the history of art at Yale University. Huang has participated in a range of exhibitions, publications and presentations focusing on contemporary Chinese art, and recently co-curated the Beijing Project: 2000-2002, a series of five exhibitions featuring contemporary Chinese art with independent curator Huang Du. This fall, Huang will join UB's Department of Art History as assistant professor of Chinese art.

Project director for "The Wall" is Holly E. Hughes, who is also Project Curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Adjunct Professor of Museum Studies at Canisius College in Buffalo. Some of her most recent curatorial projects have been Bodily Space: New Obsessions in Figurative Sculpture; co-curator for Beyond/In Western New York 2005 and most recently curated Buffalo Exposed, an installation at Buffalo Central Terminal by internationally renowned artist Spencer Tunick in May 2005.

Support for "The Wall" has been generously provided by the UB, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Millennium Art Museum, the Asian Cultural Council, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the UB Interdisciplinary Research and Creative Activities Fund from the Office of the Vice President for Research, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.


UB Art Gallery, Center for the Arts: Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., except Thurs. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

UB Anderson Gallery, Martha Jackson Place: Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery: Wed.-Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., except Friday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Admission is free at both UB venues and $12 at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

A passport guide to the exhibition, on sale at all 3 locations for $12 includes a free admission pass to the Albright-Knox and is good for the duration of the exhibition.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York system. UB's more than 27,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. The university offers the only degrees in law, pharmacy and architecture in the SUNY system, and is the home of the only comprehensive public school of engineering and school of informatics in New York State.

As UB's museum and home to its permanent art collection, the UB Anderson Gallery is a place to house, manage and exhibit the university's visual resources and a venue for scholarly exhibitions. A non-collecting institution, the UB Art Gallery, in the Center for the Arts, presents exhibitions of contemporary art and interdisciplinary programming that examine current art practice, providing a vital academic resource for the university and the community.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery enjoys a worldwide reputation as an outstanding center of modern and contemporary art. Its permanent collection, which includes works by most of the great artists of the late 19th and the 20th centuries, has been cited as one of the world's top international surveys of modern and contemporary painting and sculpture.

High-resolution digital images are available upon request. Additional information is available at

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