Spotlight: A Retrospective of Artist Liu Shiming’s Evocative Sculptures Traces the Arc of His Storied Career

The exhibition opens on March 12 at the artist's eponymous foundation in New York.

Liu Shiming, Cutting Through Mountains to Bring in Water (1970). Courtesy of Liu Shiming Art Foundation, New York.

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What You Need to Know: Founded in 2021, the Liu Shiming Art Foundation of New York maintains a mission centered on preserving and promoting the work of the eponymous artist Liu Shiming. Fostering and supporting emerging artists and art historians, the foundation is a platform that helps facilitate academic and creative exchange across borders, cultures, and practices. One notable aspect of the foundation is the Liu Shiming Art Gallery, which is dedicated to presenting the artist’s work through both thematic and chronological exhibitions, and creating dialogue with other artists who work in the same or similar traditions. Opening this month on March 12, 2024, the gallery will present its inaugural exhibition, “From the Beginning: Sculpture by Liu Shiming,” a small-scale retrospective featuring more than 35 of the artist’s works.

Liu Shiming, Self-Portrait (Standing) (1989). Courtesy of Liu Shiming Art Foundation, New York.

About the Artist: Chinese artist Liu Shiming (1926–2010) is widely recognized for his sculpture, which in many ways simultaneously propelled and echoed the international shifts toward modernism across 20th century China. Originally from Tianjin in northeastern China, he studied at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, where he graduated in 1951 and became one of the first artists to train in sculpture under the People’s Republic of China. His student project, titled Measuring Land (1950), was the first sculpture to be exhibited abroad by the People’s Republic of China, and went on to be acquired by the Czech National Museum. Later in his career, he relocated to a more rural area, where he drew inspiration from traditional Chinese culture, which he synthesized with Modernist sensibilities. He ultimately returned to Beijing, which is where he continued to work through the end of his life.

Liu Shiming, Re-Education (1980). Courtesy of Liu Shiming Art Foundation, New York.

Why We Like It: “From the Beginning” marks a significant moment in the posthumous appreciation of Shiming’s work, bringing the influential artist’s oeuvre to new generations of art followers and maintaining his legacy. One of the most important works on view is a smaller version of the monumental Cutting Through Mountains to Bring in Water (1970), which measured a staggering 13-feet high. Here, the artist’s ability to convey movement and tension in the static work, as well as to synthesize both representation and abstraction elements to emotionally resonant effect is on full display.

Elsewhere, pieces such as Self-Portrait (Standing) (1989) shows the influence of traditional Chinese sculpture composition, and Ansai Waist Drummer (1989) exemplifies his longstanding interest in the full breadth of Chinese arts and culture. For both those familiar with Shiming’s practice as well as those new to it, the selection of sculptures offer an invaluable opportunity to explore his work as well as gain a better understanding of 20th-century Chinese sculpture.

Liu Shiming, Ansai Waist Drummer (1989). Liu Shiming, Re-education (1980). Liu Shimming, Self-Portrait (standing) (1989). Liu Shimming, <i>Mountain to Bring in Water</i> (1970). Courtesy of Liu Shimming Art Foundation, New York.

Liu Shiming, Ansai Waist Drummer (1989). Courtesy of Liu Shiming Art Foundation, New York.

From the Beginning: Sculpture by Liu Shiming” opens March 12, 2024.

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