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Guan Xiao in "Beijing"

The sculptor and video artist Guan Xiao employs juxtapositions—past and present, tradition and innovation, the natural and the industrial—to create works that are discordant, astute, and frequently humorous reflections on the matrices and radical contrasts of twenty-first-century life. At work in her Beijing studio, Guan combines readymade industrial materials like motorbike and automobile parts with traditional Chinese ceramics and tree roots, creating dissonant, futuristic, and quasi-anthropomorphic sculptures. For her multi-channel video work, the artist brings together found footage from the Internet in a series of contradictory yet inexplicably resonant tableaux. For Guan, this “fragmented reality [is] closer to how we actually experience life.” Part of a younger generation of Chinese artists, Guan candidly describes the unique difficulties faced by many Asian artists, who must contend with imported contemporary-art styles. Yet, the artist remains optimistic about the future and her generation’s ambitions to develop their unique voices in a crowded global art culture.

More information and credits


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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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.

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Amid Beijing’s dizzying economic, urban, and cultural transformation, five artists respond to the region’s relentless evolution with urgency and ambition, all the while contending with many centuries of Chinese cultural traditions.

Season 10 Educators' Guide

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