Xu Bing is widely recognized as one of the leading conceptual artists of language and semiotics working today. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, he is celebrated for his “capacity to contribute importantly to society, particularly in printmaking and calligraphy.”


Born in Chongqing, China in 1955, Xu grew up in Beijing where he studied printmaking at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Trained as a printmaker, Xu is informed by the Cultural Revolution, Chan Buddhism, and his keen interest in the relationship between meaning and words, writing, and reading. He has famously re-invented Chinese characters and the English alphabet, rendering Chinese nonsensical and English into legible Chinese characters, effectively challenging comprehension of both.


One of his best-known works, Book from the Sky (1987–1991), earned Xu international recognition in the 1980s. The work is a massive installation of hundreds of volumes and scrolls printed with 4,000 imagined Chinese characters, which were cut by hand into wood printing blocks. Describing his art practice, Xu explains that his works “are all linked by a common thread, which is to construct some kind of obstacle to people’s habitual ways of thinking—what I call the ‘cognitive structures’ of the mind.”


Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the British Museum in London, among other major institutions. In addition, Xu Bing has shown at the 45th and 51st Venice Biennales; the Biennale of Sydney and the Johannesburg Biennale amongst other international exhibitions.


Grants and Prizes


Southern Graphics Council Lifetime Achievement Award

International Association of Art Critics Award for “Best Installation or Single Work of Art in a Museum, New England”

The Youth Friends Award, NYC

Artes Mundi Prize

American Academy in Berlin Coca-Cola Fellowship

Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize

MacArthur Award

Pollock-Krasner Foundation Prize

ArtPace Foundation Resident Artist




Lives and works in Beijing and New York

 1955           Born in Chongqing, China




MFA Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing




Xu Bing: Language and Nature, Ink Studio, Beijing, China

            Xu Bing: Thought and Method, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China 



Xu Bing, The United Art Museum, Wuhan, Hubei, China



Language & the Art of Xu Bing, Museu de Arte de Macau, Macau, China

performing ART, Oil Street Artspace, Hong Kong, China



Xu Bing: Dragonfly Eyes (Trailer), The Frye Art Museum, Seattle, USA







Traveling to the Wonderland, Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, Beijing, China

Xu Bing: Book from the Ground, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, London, UK

Xu Bing: Book from the Sky, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, USA


          Background Story: A New Approach to Landscape Painting, Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin, USA


          Writing Between Heaven and Earth, Florida International University, Frost Art Museum, Miami, Florida, USA

Things Are Not What They First Appear, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia, USA

Bird Language. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Phoenix 2015, 56th International Venice Biennale, All the World's Futures, Venice, Italy

Book from the Ground Concept Store, K11 Art Space, Hong Kong, China



The Language of Xu Bing, LACMA, Los Angeles, USA



Metamorphosis: The Art of Xu Bing, Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Hong Kong, China

Phoenix: Xu Bing at the Cathedral, The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, New York, USA

Xu Bing Retrospective, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

Research Exhibition on Background Story, Inside Out Art Museum, Beijing, China

Forest Project of Xu Bing and Children, National Museum of History, Taipei, Taiwan

Background Story: Nan Shan Cui Ping, Long Museum, Shanghai, China 



Traveling to the Wonderland, John Madejski Garden, Victoria and Albert Museum, London,UK




Xu Bing: Landscape Landscript, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK

Nine Deaths, Two Births: Xu Bing's Phoenix Project, Smithsonian Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC, USA

Living Word, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore



Xu Bing: Phoenix, MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, USA

Book from the Ground: From Point to Point, Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai, China



Xu Bing: Book from the Sky to Book from the Ground, Eslite Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

Xu Bing: Square Word Calligraphy, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York, USA

The Art of Rewriting China, Carlsten Art Gallery, University of Wisconsin-Steven Point, Steven Point, Wisconsin, USA

Tobacco Project 4, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA

Forest Project & Book from the Ground, 30th San Paulo Biennial, San Paulo, Brazil 


          Square Word Calligraphy Classroom, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, USA




Where does the dust itself collect? Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York, USA

Tobacco project 3, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, USA

Living Word 3, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, USA

An Installation by Xu Bing: Background Story 7, British Museum, London, UK



Phoenix Project, Baogang Stage, Expo 2010 Shanghai, Shanghai, China



Xu Bing: Aerial Phoenix Project, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China



Xu Bing: Forest Project Exhibition, He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China




Xu Bing: The Path of Repetition and the Imprint, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China

Reading Space: The Art of Xu Bing, Clifford Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, USA



Xu Bing, Middlebury College Museum of Art, Vermont, USA







Xu Bing, Albion Gallery, London, UK

Xu Bing Selected Work, 1987-2007 - Grossman Artist Solo Exhibition, Richard A. and Rissa W. Grossman Gallery, Lafayette  College, Easton, Pennsylvania, USA

Picture Equality: Xu Bing's New Ways of Seeing, Sawhill Gallery, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA





"Book from the Sky" to "Book from the Ground" - The Book Works of Xu Bing, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas,       Lawrence, Kansas, USA 

2006           Xu Bing Special Exhibition, Suzhou Museum, Suzhou, China
            Installation of Any Opinions, lobby of Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA



Ghosts Pounding the Wall - Xu Bing's Work, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China



Xu Bing: The Glassy Surface of a Lake, Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin, USA



Xu Bing Tobacco Project: Shanghai, Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai, China

Xu Bing, Yokohama Portside Gallery, Yokohama, Japan

Xu Bing in Berlin, Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin, Germany

Xu Bing: El Pozo de la Verdad/The Well of Truth, Sala La Gallera, Valencia, Spain

Xu Bing: Three Installations, Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA


          Xu Bing, Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK



Xu Bing, The 14th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes 2003 Grand Price Commemorative Art Exhibition, Fukuoka Asian Art                      Museum, Fukuoka, Japan

Xu Bing, Eslite Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

Book from the Sky installation, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, USA



Myers School of Art: Faculty Exhibition: Xu Bing: Installation, Emily Davis Gallery, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA



Classroom Calligraphy, Daryl Reich Rubenstein Gallery, Sidwell Friends School, Washington D.C., USA

Xu Bing, Commons Gallery, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Xu Bing: Living Word 2, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA


          Word Play: Contemporary Art by Xu Bing, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA



Xu Bing: Prints and Books, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon, USA

Xu Bing: One-Man Show, Eslite Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

Xu Bing: Reading Landscape, North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina, USA

Xu Bing, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan

2000           The Tobacco Project: A Series of Installations Created by Xu Bing, The Duke Homestead &  Tobacco Museum, and The Perkins  Library Gallery, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina,USA

Installation of Lost Letters at 52. Frankfurter Buchmesse, Frankfurt, Germany

A Book from the Sky & Classroom Calligraphy, National Gallery of Prague, Czech Republic
1999            Calligraphy for the People: A Site Specific Installation, Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, Maine
1998           Xu Bing: Square Word Poetry, Ethan Cohen Fine Art, New York, USA

Xu Bing: Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, USA

Xu Bing: Panda Zoo, Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, USA

Xu Bing: Cultured Animal, Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Xu Bing: Recent Projects, California Institute for the Arts, Valencia, California, USA

1997           The Net: A Collaborative Installation by Xu Bing, Tarble Arts Center, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois, USA

An Installation by Xu Bing: Another Language of Art, Allen Priebe Gallery, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Oshkosh,                          Wisconsin, USA

Xu Bing: Square Word Calligraphy, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong, China             

Xu Bing, Toyo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

Classroom Calligraphy, Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró, Mallorca, Spain

Xu Bing: Lost Letters, Asian Fine Arts Factory, Berlin, Germany

Installation by Xu Bing, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, UK

Xu Bing, Galería Charpa, Valencia, Spain
1996           Xu Bing: A Case of Transference, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, New York, USA

Xu Bing: Learn Square Words, Marstall Performance Centre, Munich, Germany


Xu Bing: A Book from the Sky, University Art Museum, The State University of New York at Albany, New York

1995           Xu Bing, Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Xu Bing: Post Testament Installation, North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA

Xu Bing: Language Lost, Huntington Gallery, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Xu Bing: Recent Project, MFA Graduation Exhibit, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota, USA

Xu Bing, Dille Center for the Arts, Moorhead State University, Moorhead, Minnesota, USA

A Case Study of Transference 2, Yongfeng Hogpen, Beijing, China 
1994           Xu Bing: Recent Work, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, New York, USA

Xu Bing: Cultural Negotiations, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California, USA

Xu Bing: Experimental Exhibition (later called A Case Study of Transference), Hanmo Art Center, Beijing, China

1993           Xu Bing: A Home Away from Home, North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, North Dakota
            Xu Bing: Le Livre de Ciel, La Galerie Bellefroid, Paris, France
1992           Xu Bing: The First Exhibition of His Solo Exhibition Series, North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA
1991           Three Installations by Xu Bing, Elvehjem Museum of Art (now Chazen Museum of Art), Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Xu Bing, Chinese Modern Art Center, Osaka, Japan

Xu Bing: Book from the Sky, DF Fong & Spratt Galleries, San Jose, California, USA

Xu Bing, Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
1990           Exhibition of Xu Bing’s Prints, Lung Men Art Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
1988           Xu Bing Prints, China Art Gallery (now National Fine Art Museum of China), Beijing

Xu Bing Prints Exhibition, Lung Men Art Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan




Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York, USA




A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains: Blue–green Landscape Paintings from across Chinese History, Palace Museum, Beijing,      China

57th Venice Biennale Collateral Event-Memory and Contemporaneity, Arsenale, Tese 98-99, Venice, Italy

Imaginary Asia, Nam June Paik Art Center, Gyeonggi do, Korea





Shan Shui Within, Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, Shanghai, China

MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada



The Translator's Voice, MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Vigo, Spain




All the World’s Futures, 56th International Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

New Contemporary, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA

First Look: Collecting Contemporary At the Asian, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA






Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraph— Selections from the Collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, Metropolitan          Museum of Art, New York, USA

Whorled Exploration, Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, Kochi, India




Rewriting the Landscape: India and China, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea

Ink Art: the Past as Present in Contemporary China, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA



Print/Out, MoMA, New York, USA





The Printed Image in China, 8th-21st Century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Book from the Sky, Arts of China Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA

Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA



Shan Shui — Poetry without Sound, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Luzern, Switzerland



Fresh Ink: Ten Takes on Chinese Tradition, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, USA






The Constructed Dimension – 2010 Chinese Contemporary Art Invitational Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing,           China

The Printed Image in China: From the 8th to the 21st Centuries, British Museum, London, UK

2009           4th Fukuoka Asian Triennial, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan

The China Project – Three Decades: The Contemporary Chinese Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art                  (GoMA), Queensland, Australia



Text/Message: Book by Artists, Medtronic Gallery, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA



China's ReVision, Ludwig Museum, Koblenz, Germany

Form, Idea, Essence, Rhythm: Contemporary East Asian Ink Painting, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

Art and China's Revolution, Asia Society Museum, New York, USA

Accelerate: Chinese Contemporary Art, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore

Human/Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, USA

Half-Life of a Dream: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Logan Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California, USA

Synthetic Times: Media Art China 2008, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China


’85 New Wave: The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art, The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing


Automatic Update, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, USA

Chinglish, Contemporary Hong Kong Art Gallery, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, China

2006           Moment by Moment: Meditations of the Hand, the North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA

Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art, China Institute Gallery, New York, USA

Traveled to The Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle, USA; Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, USA

Belief: Singapore Biennale 2006, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore

China Now, Sammlung Essl Kunst der Gegenwart, Klosterneuburg, Vienna

Brush and Ink: the Chinese Art of Writing, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Found in Translation: An Exhibition of Artist Books and Multi-Media Work, San Francisco Center for the Book, San Francisco, California, USA

2001           Artists’ Books: Highlights from the Kohler Art Library, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison,                          Wisconsin, USA
            Give & Take, Victoria and Albert Museum and Serpentine Gallery, London, UK

Cinco continentes y una ciudad, Museo de la Ciudad de México, Mexico City, Mexico


Inside Out: New Chinese Art, The Asia Society Museum and PS1, New York, USA

1996           Origin and Myths of Fire: New Art from Japan, China and Korea, the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan
1993           45th Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy
1992           Looking for Tree of Life: A Journey to Asian Contemporary Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan
1989           China/Avant-Garde, China Art Gallery, Beijing, China


Last Updated: January 2019