Panel Discussion & Screening: Life & Legacy of Mu Xin

When 18 Feb 2012
3:00PM - 5:00PM
Where Queens Museum of Art
New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
New York, NY
United States

Mu Xin, Spring Brilliance at Kuaiji, 1977-79. Courtesy of the artist

February 18 2012, 3-5pm

Press Release:

Chinese painter, writer, and intellectual Mu Xin, who recently passed away at 84, is considered by experts to be one of the most original, important yet largely unknown artists of the last century. Among his greatest admirers and supporters is famed Chinese intellectual and painter Chen Danqing, who regards Mu Xin as his teacher and mentor. They met 25 years ago when they were both living in Queens, NY.

OSCAR® and Emmy Nominated filmmakers Francisco Bello and Tim Sternberg traveled to China in December 2010 to interview Mu Xin for their film “MU XIN: NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND.” This interview is the last living testament of Mu Xin on camera.

Mu Xin’s life bridged pre-revolutionary China to the present day, and his art remains a vibrant dialogue between East and West, the classical and the contemporary. He was born Sun Pu in 1927, to an aristocratic family in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province. Like many intellectuals of the late 1940′s he rallied to Mao Zedong’s vision for a new China, and gradually became disenchanted. Working by day as an industrial designer and teacher, he spent his private hours painting, and writing scores of novels, plays and poems – in secret. His works had no explicit political content, so he clandestinely worked with the knowledge that they may never be published or displayed.

In 1971, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, he was falsely accused and placed in a series of imprisonments for almost 2 years, starting in makeshift solitary confinement in the basement of a Shanghai air raid shelter, and later under house arrest where he was under constant surveillance. While imprisoned, he secretly used scraps of paper that were provided for his “self criticism,” and risked his life to write the “Prison Notes.” These 66 pieces are filled front to back with dialogues with great thinkers across Eastern and Western history, such as Flaubert, Confucius and Nietzsche. Further risking his life, Mu Xin then smuggled the “Prison Notes” out of captivity by sewing them into the lining of his work clothes. While under a later house arrest, at night he secretly painted his Landscape Paintings. These 33 miniatures blend both Eastern and Western techniques to recreate ancient Chinese landscapes, works that confront the viewer with their finely wrought views of worlds suspended in time. When Mu Xin was finally released from house arrest, he left for the United States where he lived until 2006. He lived in obscurity, steadily gaining an audience throughout the Chinese Diaspora as his books started to be published in the 1980′s, at first in Taiwan then much later in mainland China.

In 2002, at the age of 76, Mu Xin was given his first major traveling exhibition “The Art of Mu Xin: Landscape Paintings and Prison Notes,” organized by the Yale University Art Gallery and co-curated by Wu Hung and Alexandra Munroe. The first English language collection of his writings, “An Empty Room”, translated by Toming Junliu and edited byJoanne Wang, was published by the prestigious New Directions imprint in 2011.

In an ironic coda to his exemplary life, Mu Xin returned to his hometown of Wuzhen in 2006 at the invitation of the local authorities.  Once hounded almost to death for his artistic integrity, he was given a hero’s welcome, now considered as a “national treasure.” Mu Xin continued  writing and painting up until his death in December 2010. His hometown of Wuzhen is in the process of building a museum in his honor, which has named Chen Danqing as its director.

QMA is honored to welcome Chen Danqing and Joanne Wang who will be speak about the importance of Mu Xin’s work. Francisco Bello and Tim Sternberg will show excerpts from their film in progress, including scenes of Mu Xin reading his prose and poems. This distinguished panel will be moderated by Luchia Meihua Lee and introduced by QMA’s Director, Tom Finkelpearl.

For more information please click here.