Guggenheim removes a Xu Bing’s piece after receiving threats of violence
The Guggenheim Museum in New York is in the process of acquiring one of the pieces it removed from its recent survey of Chinese contemporary art, just before the show’s opening, after criticism erupted over the treatment of animals that were involved in the making of the works.
Today ARTnews learned that the museum is adding to its collection Xu Bing’s A Case Study of Transference (1994), a video of a performance piece that shows two pigs, tattooed with false Chinese characters, mating.
After the museum said that it received threats of violence over its plan to display the works last September, it removed Xu’s piece, along with two others, prior to the opening of the exhibition, “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World,” which ran from October 6, 2017, through January 7, 2018. A museum spokesperson who confirmed the acquisition process said that the work is coming to the museum as a gift from a donor.
The work that was perhaps the most controversial in the show, Huang Yong Ping’s Theater of the World (1993), which features live insects, lizards, snakes, and other creatures in a cage consuming one another, is already owned by the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. At the Guggenheim in New York, only the cage was shown, with a curatorial note explaining the decision not to display the piece completely. The third contested work was Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other, 2003, a video that shows two dogs, harnessed to treadmills, facing each other.
The Guggenheim spokesperson said that the museum is also considering the purchase of a new Huang, an Air France air sickness bag on which the artist reportedly wrote after learning that his Theater piece would be displayed only partially. On that object, he wrote, in part, “An empty cage is not, by itself, reality. Reality is chaos inside calmness, violence under peace, and vice versa.”