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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Asia Society Museum in New York presents Xiaoze Xie: Objects of Evidence

Xiaoze Xie. Chinese Library No. 62, 2017. Oil on canvas. H. 60 x W. 60 in. (152 x 152 cm).
Courtesy of the artist and Chambers Fine Art. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Asia Society presents an exhibition of paintings, installation, photography, and video by Xiaoze Xie (b. 1966 in Guangdong Province, China) tracing the history of banned books in China and exploring the subjectivity of censorship in relation to the shifting nature of sociopolitical and religious ideologies.

Exhibition of paintings, installation, photography, and video on view through Jan 5, 2020. 

Born on the cusp of the Cultural Revolution, Xiaoze Xie experienced the profound power of books firsthand. Formative memories of his grandmother sharing epic tales from classic novels dovetailed with recollections of his father, a school principal, who was forced to collect banned books slated for destruction under Mao. Doomed titles from the artist’s youth became forbidden, yet tantalizing objects that have continued to inspire Xie as a central aspect of his artistic practice.

Xie’s focus on books banned in China was initiated during a 2014 residency as a faculty fellow at the Stanford Center at Peking University when he compiled an index of banned books from the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) through the Republic of China (1911–49) into the present day. The artist expanded this research project to chart the history of banned books—through the use of painting, photography, and installation—including Dream of the Red Chamber (Hong Lou Meng) by Cao Xueqin, and Water Margin (Shui Hu Zhuan) attributed to Shi Nai'an, which have become among the most revered and beloved novels in Chinese literature. Xie’s body of work provides a means to consider changes in cultural standards and their influence on shaping modern Chinese society.

On view in the exhibition are a selection of oil paintings, a photographic installation of editions of books printed in the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing dynasties, and a 46-minute video documentary about Xie’s work and the history and impact of literary censorship in Mainland China. Objects of Evidence (Modern Books), comprises three vitrines containing first edition banned books from Mainland China, accompanied by later editions sourced from outside the mainland, from three modern eras in Chinese history: the Republican Era (1911–49), the Hu Feng Anti-party Clique period in the 1950s, and the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). Foreign books in translation—including A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë—were among the books banned for their socially corrupting material. To date, the artist has collected over 750 publications for this ongoing project.

Also included in the exhibition is a searchable database, created by the artist as an interactive complement to Objects of Evidence, of information about books censored in China from the Ming dynasty to the present including author, book title, and the date and reason for censorship. Visitors may access selected publications under the following subjects: politics, literature, religion, academics, and morality. The database also includes a brief overview of the history of censorship in Mainland China.

Xiaoze Xie was born in 1966 in Guangdong Province, China. He received a BFA in Architecture from Tsinghua University in 1988, an MFA from the Central Academy of Arts and Design in Beijing in 1991, and an MFA from the University of North Texas in 1996. The artist currently lives and works in Palo Alto, CA, where he serves as the Paul L. & Phyllis Wattis Professor of Art at Stanford University.

Xiaoze Xie: Objects of Evidence is curated by Michelle Yun, Senior Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, Asia Society Museum.

Also on view
The following exhibitions are concurrently on view at Asia Society Museum from September 10, 2019 through January 5, 2020:

  • Wang Dongling: Ink in Motion is the first public presentation of a work by one of the most celebrated living calligraphers in China, created for Asia Society as part of a 2018 performance at the Museum. Inspired by Laozi’s Dao De Jing, a classic of Daoist philosophy, the large-scale opus, like Wang Dongling’s other experimental works, features his luanshu (chaos script) that expands the venerated Chinese calligraphy tradition through a dynamic style that renders the texts almost completely indecipherable.

  • In Focus: Lakshmi explores the importance and worship of the beloved goddess and consort of the god Vishnu, who is part of the complex Hindu belief that originated in India. The exhibition is centered on a hanging Meiji Period (1868–1912) scroll depicting Lakshmi as she appears in the Japanese Buddhist tradition, venerated as the most popular Buddhist deity. Lakshmi appears in numerous forms, as do the Hindu deities represented by Chola-period sculptures that are also on view. Contemporary paintings by self-taught artist Roberto Custodio (b. 1967 in São Paolo, Brazil) share broader context and transformations of the goddess’s image abroad. The exhibition is part of Asia Society Museum’s ongoing In Focus series inviting viewers to take an in-depth look at a single, significant work of art.

Exhibition support
Generous support for Xiaoze Xie: Objects of Evidence is provided by Bo Wu, The Lou Foundation, and the Fortinet Founder. This exhibition was made possible with support from the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University. Asia Society appreciates the cooperation of Chambers Fine Art.

Support for Asia Society Museum is provided by Asia Society Global Council on Asian Arts and Culture, Asia Society Friends of Asian Arts, Arthur Ross Foundation, Sheryl and Charles R. Kaye Endowment for Contemporary Art Exhibitions, Hazen Polsky Foundation, Mary Griggs Burke Fund, Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and New York State Council on the Arts.

About Asia Society Museum
Asia Society Museum presents a wide range of traditional, modern, and contemporary exhibitions of Asian and Asian American art, taking new approaches to familiar masterpieces and introducing under-recognized arts and artists. The Asia Society Museum Collection comprises a traditional art collection that includes the initial bequests of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, and a contemporary art collection.

Asia Society Museum is located at 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York City. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. and Friday from 11:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. Closed on Mondays and major holidays. General admission is $12, seniors $10, students $7; and free for members and persons under 16. Free admission Friday evenings, from 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. Find out more at

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