A city with a history of more than two thousand years, Beijing has recently become the center of shifting politics, rapid urbanization, and an economic boom, making it fertile ground for art and artists. Beginning in the late 1980s and continuing into the 1990s, a new generation of artists emerged in the city, marking the birth of contemporary art in China. Amid Beijing’s dizzying economic, urban, and cultural transformation, artists have responded to its relentless evolution with urgency and ambition, all the while contending with many centuries of Chinese cultural traditions. This film witnesses the maturing of a unique contemporary-art hub and follows a multigenerational group of artists who grapple with memory, modernization, their roles in the global art world, and art’s place in their own ever-changing society.

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Executive Producer: Tina Kukielski. Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Directors: Bryan Chang and Vicky Du. Producer: Vicky Du. Editor: Bryan Chang. Director of Photography: Bryan Chang.

Production Services: Meerkat Media. Assistant Curator: Danielle Brock. Field Producers: Yifan Wen and Qianying Zhao. Design & Animation: Momentist, Inc. Composer: Joel Pickard. Advising Producer: Ian Forster: Additional Art21 Staff: Lauren Barnett, Lolita Fierro, Joe Fusaro, Meghan Garven, Jonathan Munar, and Emma Nordin. Narration: Okema T. Moore.

Additional Photography: Robert Cauble, Vicky Du, Andrew Kemp, Christoph Lerch, Riani Singgih, Yifan Wen, and Yang Bo. Assistant Camera: Ogey Samhadi, Charlie Stoddart, and Yifan Wen. Location Sound: Rayell Abad, Long Lv, Sean Millar, Shi Qian, and Zhou Yang.

Digital Intermediate: Cut + Measure. Post-Production Producer: Alex Laviola. Colorist: Jerome Thélia. Post-Production Sound Services: Konsonant Post. Re-Recording Mixer & Sound Editor: Gisela Fullà-Silvestre. Online & Conform: David Gauff. Additional Animation: Andy Cahill. Assistant Editors: Jasmine Canon, Jonah Greenstein, Tianyao Ma, and Mengchen Zhang. Translation: Xiaoyu Song, Yixin Tong, and Mengchen Zhang. Descriptive Video Information: Captionmax.

Artwork Courtesy: Guan Xiao, Liu Xiaodong, Song Dong, Xu Bing, Yin Xiuzhen, Chambers Fine Art, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Lisson Gallery, and Pace Gallery. Archival Materials: Dabarti CGI, HEC Media, Pond 5, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gord Webster, Yang Bo, Hung-i Yao, and Yitiao. Additional Music: APM Music.

Public Relations: Cultural Counsel. Station Relations: De Shields Associates, Inc. Legal Counsel: Barbara T. Hoffman, Esq. Interns: Kristie Chua, Shane Daly, Malique Daniels, Grace Doyle , Eda Li, Daniela Mayer, Jason Mendoza, Nikhil Oza, Anika Rahman, Ana Sanz, Sara Schwartz, Victoria Xu, and Sadie Yanckello.

Special Thanks: The Art21 Board of Trustees, Asia Art Archive in America, Marco Betelli, Emma Bright, CAFA Art Museum, Xinglu Chen, Mengna Da, Atika Dewi, Peter Doroshenko, Alejandro Flores, Robie Flores, Melissa Saenz Gordon, Nina Hidayat, Esther Knuth, Alessandra Lacorazza, Jia Li, Li Liang, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Christophe Mao, Museum MACAN, Qu Shanpu, Tom Schmerber, Chloe Shi, Nicolas Smirnoff, Song Errui, Jeffrey Sterrenberg, Tianyi Sun, Today Art Museum, Paula Tsai, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Venice Biennale, Andrea Vesentini, Wang Zhongyao, Xiaoyu Weng, Wu Hung, Wu Yue, Xia Wenbin, Jane Xiao, and Yi Zhou.

Major underwriting for Season 10 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, Lambent Foundation, The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Toby Devan Lewis, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Henri Lambert, Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman, and Sakana Foundation.

Series Creators: Susan Dowling and Susan Sollins.

©2020 Art21, Inc.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Xu Bing

Xu Bing was born in 1955 in Chongqing, China, and grew up in Beijing. Fascinated with visual and written languages, Xu builds mixed-media installations that simultaneously evoke and subvert centuries-old Chinese cultural traditions, such as calligraphy, wood-block printing, and landscape painting scrolls. The artist asks viewers to consider how our cultural backgrounds, especially those shaped by language, fundamentally color our worldviews.

Song Dong

Song Dong was born in 1966 in Beijing, China. Working with humble, readily accessible materials, such as household objects, wooden window and door frames, and even food, Song Dong creates sculptures, installations, videos, and performance works that explore personal and collective memory, impermanence, and the transience of human endeavor.

Yin Xiuzhen

Yin Xiuzhen was born in 1963 in Beijing, China. Working in site-specific installation and sculpture, Yin uses second-hand or recycled items like clothing and domestic objects to create works that preserve personal memories in a rapidly globalizing and homogenizing world.

Guan Xiao

Guan Xiao was born 1983 in Chongqing Province, China. In her sculpture and video work, Guan juxtaposes discordant images, diverse cultural artifacts, and modern technology to create objects that are futuristic, referential, unsettling, and humorous. Working with traditional Chinese sculpted tree roots, 3D fabrications, and readymade industrial objects, Guan Xiao epitomizes the next generation of artists from China, rooted in transnational culture and immersed in our technology-fueled present. Her video works mirror viewers’ experiences of the Internet and personal memories, where seemingly unrelated images find inexplicable yet resonant connection.

Liu Xiaodong

Liu Xiaodong was born in 1963 in Jincheng, in the province of Liaoning, China. A leading figure among the Chinese Neo-Realist painters, Liu Xiaodong depicts everyday people in his enormous oil-and-acrylic paintings, foregrounding the human dimension of global issues like economic hardship, environmental crisis, and migration. The artist often works on site, painting his subjects en plein air.

Segments from "Beijing"

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Season 10 Educators' Guide

Educators’ Guides provide information about selected artists and themes, questions for classroom discussions, and hands-on activities that provide students with a fundamental understanding of creative and critical thinking processes.