From The Beginning: Sculpture by Liu Shiming

From The Beginning: Sculpture by Liu Shiming, a mini-retrospective featuring over 35 pieces, intends to demonstrate Liu Shiming’s stature as a leading figure in modern Chinese sculpture, and as an artist whose vision resonates across cultures and countries. On view in New York City now through August 15, it is the inaugural exhibition at Liu Shiming Art Gallery.

Acclaimed as a unique talent while still a student in Beijing, Liu Shiming (1926–2010) was chosen to work on public projects that helped shape the image of the “New China.” However, in 1960, Shiming abandoned recognition and fame to pursue his artistic vision in China’s midland. He first moved to Henan and then Hebei province, where he lived and worked among villagers and farmers, fishermen and roving performers, rural workers and river rafters. During this time, Shiming developed a visual language that incorporated elements of modernism within traditional techniques and imagery.

Liu Shiming, “Mother Returns” (1993), pottery, 13 x 4 1/3 x 3 1/4 inches

“Liu Shiming worked with whatever material was readily at hand, creating mostly small-scale, intimate, tactile sculptures — you feel his hands forming the work, marvel at the detail and compassion he conveys in a nine-inch-high sculpture like ‘Performer Backstage’, where we see an opera singer holding her child, a teapot and cat beside her,” explains Fran Kaufman, Curatorial Director of Liu Shiming Art Gallery. “His unerring ability to capture the spirit rather than the literal is evident throughout his work.”

Because of the fragility of the ceramic work, many of his sculptures — including those in the exhibition — have been translated into bronze, both under Shiming’s supervision during his lifetime and later, overseen by his son, Liu Wei. Faithful in detail, these works maintain the integrity of the original, honoring the artist’s wishes.

LiuShiming Worship
Liu Shiming, “Worship 1” (1980), bronze, 4 x 21 x 7 inches

From the Beginning marks the launch of a broader effort to share Liu Shiming’s work and humanist philosophy of artmaking with a larger audience. A forthcoming monograph, written by Richard Vine, former managing editor of Art in America and author of New China, New Art (2008), will be available in early 2025.

About the Gallery
Liu Shiming Art Gallery is dedicated to expanding awareness of noted Chinese sculptor Liu Shiming through a series of solo and thematic group shows that place his work in context with other artists. The new 1,800-square-foot gallery is located in Midtown Manhattan at 15 East 40th Street, Floor 5. Hours are Monday through Friday, 11am–5pm, or by appointment.

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