Skip navigation

Another work we saw in Venice that is worth mentioning.

Xu Bing (Chinese: 徐冰, born 1965) is a Chinese-born artist who lived in the United States for eighteen years. Currently residing in Beijing, he used to serve as the vice-president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. The two installations – The Phoenix – weighing 8 tons were installed in the Gaggiandre basin at the Arsenale over water.


We were not looking for it, just exploring the vast Arsenale venue and did not even suspect that there were something displayed at the boat basin.


So it was quite a pleasant surprise as the pieces are large and mysterious.  They looked supernatural or alien as they appeared to be hovering over water, ready to take off from the unusual venue.


The larger sculpture, 100 feet (30 meters) long, is identified as a male and named Feng in accordance with the Chinese phoenix tradition. The smaller one is 90 feet (27 meters) long and is a female named Huang.


In 2008, after returning to China to take the position at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Xu Bing was asked to create a sculpture for the atrium of the World Financial Center, which was then being developed in Beijing. He was inspired to construct two large sculptures in the form of birds that are made largely out of construction debris and tools that he salvaged from the site.


Originally planned to take four months, the sculptures ultimately took two years to build (completed in 2010); by that time the developers of the complex had decided the sculptures did not meet their needs.


They were displayed at the Today Art Museum in Beijing and at the Shanghai World Expo before going to the United States in 2012. After a year at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, they were then moved to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, where they were unveiled to the public on 1 March 2014. They were suspended from the ceiling of the nave, where they spent about a year.


Another of Xu Bing’s work that I(Chris) saw years ago in New York was Tianshu (“Book From the Sky”) – a large installation featuring precisely laid out rows of books and hanging scrolls with written “Chinese” texts – 4,000 characters that looked Chinese but were completely meaningless according to standard Mandarin. It was not shown here but it was memorable.

Click here, here and here to see more about the Venice Biennale.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: