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Xu Bing Phoenix

  • Exhibition

  • December 22, 2012 - October 27, 2013
  • Building 5

Drawing inspiration from the contemporary realities of his fast-changing country, Chinese artist Xu Bing spent two years creating his newest work, Phoenix. The installation featured two monumental birds fabricated entirely from materials harvested from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, tools, and remnants of the daily lives of migrant laborers. At once fierce and strangely beautiful, the mythic Phoenixes bear witness to the complex interconnection between labor, history, commercial development, and the rapid accumulation of wealth in today’s China.

This was the premier appearance of the sculpture outside China (the works were exhibited briefly outdoors at the Today Art Museum in Beijing, and then at Expo10 in Shanghai). At MASS MoCA, the internally illuminated 12-ton birds were suspended mid-air inside the museum’s football field-sized Building 5; dwarfing visitors, the male Phoenix Feng measured 90 feet long, while the female Huang reached 100 feet in length, beak to (steel) tail feathers.

Phoenix was the centerpiece of an exhibition of related art by Xu Bing, widely considered to be among the most important Chinese artists working today.

An opening reception took place on April 27, in conjunction with the installation of a “second chapter” of the exhibition. On the eve of the opening, Xu Bing spoke for more than an hour, reflecting with humor and grace on his work of the past two decades.

Xu Bing suggests size matters. Click here to see his entire April 2013 Artist Talk at MASS MoCA.

The installation of Phoenix was an intense logistical exercise captured in this time-lapse from JACKADAM. Music courtesy of Wilco.