Visit The Ashmolean and see the museum’s first major exhibition of contemporary art. Contemporary too is the smartphone technology available to enhance your experience of this outstanding exhibition. Some readers may be surprised that a Chinese artist, Xu Bing, has been chosen for this landmark event. Director Christopher Brown says that “The Ashmolean has possibly the best collection of post-war Chinese art outside of mainland China” acquired with the help of the Sullivan Fund.

Xu Bing is internationally acclaimed for his installations including Book From The Sky so is a fitting choice. He is among the select few who can call himself a genius having received the MacArthur Genius award in 1999. He was also the first to receive the Artes Mundi prize in 2004. This is not Xu Bing’s first visit to Oxford. In 2006 /2007, Chinese Prints 1950-2006 was displayed in two parts because, at that time, the exhibition rooms were small and cramped. That exhibition was curated by artist and academic Weimin He with Shelagh Vainker, who has curated this latest exhibition. Weimin described his first encounter with Xu Bing: “In 1987, I visited Xu Bing’s studio flat and I was impressed by the woodcuts displayed, as well those piles of small woodblocks. His famous Book from the Sky was stored underneath his bed!

“His creative wisdom comes from both the Eastern and Western cultures, and especially his early work shows connections between the Eastern Zen and Marcel Duchamp’s conceptual art. “Although trained as a printmaker, his work has broken boundaries of forms and cultures. “The ambiguity of the visual language in his work seems to raise questions of human communication rather than giving answers to people.” Among his early works on display for the first time is Briquette Stove (1969) showing a typical Chinese wood-burning stove, but by its side is a French marble-topped washstand. East met West for him even at the age of 14. Cézanne’s The Stove in The Studio is an example with a similar composition.

Xu Bing’s education was disrupted by the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), when, like most students from his background, he was sent to work as a peasant (1974-77) I asked him whether that experience inspired his love of landscape. He described the landscape where he worked as boring, but the experience did deepen his love of nature.

His Forest Project bears witness to that. Xu Bing has been involved in an educational project in Kenya in which he encouraged children to draw trees and for each one that they drew he has arranged for a real tree to be planted.

Landscape Landscript is centred on works engaging with the Chinese painting tradition, in which landscape has held the pre-eminent position for a thousand years. See also the complementary exhibition in The Khoan & Michael Sullivan Gallery.

Visit for the events around this inspirational exhibition.

Xu Bing Landscape Landscript
 The Asmolean Museum
Until May 19