While traveling in China in 2005, I had the pleasure of seeing Xu Bing's Book from the Sky in an exhibit at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Even knowing nothing about it, it's a magnificent piece. I found myself surrounded on all sides by text and characters--it was only years later that I learned that the characters were not actual hanzi at all, but nonsense designed to resemble the nearly 50,000 characters in the language.
So I was understandably excited to read that Bing has been appointed as vice president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China's oldest and arguably most prestigious art school. The fact that Bing has lived in the States since 1990 has many hopeful that the school will be looking to the rest of the globe in addition to its country's own history, pursuing international partnerships in addition to the one it currently has with the Glasglow School of Art. The Chinese government has certainly been devoting more and more money to the school and its museum, from $2.8 million in 2000 to $21 million in 2007.
To quote Jason Kaufman of the Art Newspaper, from whom much of my information was gleaned,
"At a time when Chinese contemporary art is associated mainly with soaring prices, the choice of an intellectual such as Xu Bing, a 1999 MacArthur Foundation 'Genius' award winner who has resisted the temptations of the market, appears conservative, especially as his work is steeped in traditional Chinese painting, calligraphy and language. It is however, evidence of the value the ministry places in artistic aspirations beyond financial returns."I'm mostly excited to see the name of an artist I both like and respect. Read the article for a full interview with Xu Bing.