Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art

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    Xu Bing, Tobacco Project, Red Books, China, Republic era, 2000, Cigarettes printed with quotations from Chairman Mao,3.5” x 4", Collection of the artist, Catalog Pl. 53

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June 18, 2008 - August 31, 2008
Clare Booth Luce Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art (27)

Exhibition Overview

Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art, was part of Asian Sensation, the museum's 2008 summer program of exhibitions, film, music and more.

With more than 30 works made since the 1980s from 23 artists, Shu: Reinventing Books in Chinese Contemporary Art is the first exhibition in the U.S. to explore how artists are reexamining traditional Chinese books and albums through the lens of China’s recent history and social transformation.

This major exhibition of artist’s books, paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture includes some of the most important Chinese artists working today, including Zhang Xiaogang, and Xu Bing. Shu: Reinventing Books in Chinese Contemporary Art was organized by the China Institute Gallery in New York, and guest curated by Wu Hung, the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago.

Included in Shu is work by world-famous "gunpowder artist" Cai Guo-Qiang (left), whose recent retrospective I Want to Believe at the Guggeheim Museum in New York had tongues wagging. The New York Times featured a lengthy profile of the artist, who has been based in New York for 15 years. Look for Cai Guo-Qiang's artistic vision on TV: He's the director of visual and special effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, airing on NBC on Aug. 8.

Shu, which the New York Times called a savvy snapshot of the early-1990s Chinese contemporary art scene, also features a section of Xu Bing's A Book from the Sky, one of the seminal works of contemporary Chinese art.

This exhibition was organized by the China Institute Gallery in New York.

Funding for the Honolulu presentation of Shu: Reinventing the Book in Contemporary Chinese Art is provided by Ron and Sanne Higgins, Abel and Sophia Sheng, the Hung Wo and Elizabeth Lau Ching Foundation, Timothy Y.C. Choy, Eddie and Peggy Eu, Sandy and Jill Friedman, Sherman and Stephanie Hee, Warren and Carolyn Luke, the Louise L. and Y.T. Lum Foundation, Joanne Lau Sullivan, Dr. Lawrence K.W. Tseu, John K. and Frances Tsui, Joseph and Leonora Wee, Tobert and Betty Wo, William W.T. and Margaret Lai Won, and Shirley Yuen.


Read the New York Times review of Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art.


Read the New Yorker review of I Want to Believe.


Read the New York Times Magazine profile of Cai Guo-Qiang.


See images and video of Cai Guo-Qiang's retrospective at