Liu Ding

Liu Ding is an artist and curator based in Beijing. His artistic and curatorial practice treats objects, events and discourses of art history and the foundation of historicization both as materials and as the basis for critical reflection. He has been creating a complex body of work based on ongoing research into the continuous impact of socialist realism on the ideological structure and discourse in contemporary China.


Karl Marx in 2013 captures a chance encounter he had with a group of Chinese Communist Party members on their way to pay tribute to the Karl Marx’s grave in the suburbs of London. While filming them on his mobile, the artist and his fellow countrymen become entangled in a fierce conflict, recorded in this video.

The theories of Karl Marx came from Europe to Asia, including China, in the late nineteenth century. It has been nearly a century since his thought began to be disseminated and repeatedly put into practice in China. At present, it is very challenging to discover the initial form Marx’s system of thought took in China, but we still carry out all kinds of social and political practice at various levels in the name of “Marx”. Group after group of Chinese Communists take international flights to London, where they shop and visit Marx’s grave, swearing oaths and singing the Internationale. Karl Marx in 2013 reflects on the fact that many “isms” and ideas became alienated and instrumentalized in China from their very arrival, and are now almost devoid of their original layers of meaning.

In 1988 (Language as the Issue), a group of objects, including a painting, a wooden box painted blue on four sides, three copper sticks and a pack of postcard-sized laminated color printouts are arranged on a raised platform to appear like a setup for a still life painting. In the background is a watercolor painting on canvas done by the artist that appears in the style of a water ink landscape painting from afar, partly propped up by copper sticks. The excerpts of texts on the printouts came from the discussion arising in the aftermath of the “85’ New Wave Movement” on the subject of “purification of language”, turning the deliberation on artistic language into a visible debate on artistic practice. Artists in art academies, state-employed art critics, independent critics and, young artists emerging from the “85’ New Wave” came forth to express their views. This discussion died down gradually after the 1989 China Avant-garde Exhibition. In the process of debate, the issue of artistic language became a touchstone, reflecting the footholds of various value systems.

At the end of 1985, the American artist Rauschenberg visited Beijing and Tibet and held two solo exhibitions in Beijing and Tibet consecutively. Chinese art history has given this particular trip and Rauschenberg’s presence in Beijing a very prominent role, attributing the transformation of the artistic practice of many artists and that of Chinese art to these exhibitions. In Message, Liu Ding pretends to be Rauschenberg and offers his friends in the Beijing art world a gift. The gift consists of a bundle of paintings done in the name of Rauschenberg and a letter addressed to the friends after Rauschenberg’s arrival in Tibet in preparation for his exhibition there.

Liu Ding was born in 1976 in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province. He is an artist and curator based in Beijing. Liu’s artistic and curatorial practice treats objects, events, and discourses of art history and the foundation of historicization both as materials and as the basis for critical reflection. Liu’s projects have been presented in both Chinese and international museums, including the Tate Modern, Turner Museum and Arnolfini Gallery in the UK, the Vienna Kunsthalle in Austria, the Astrup Fearnley Modern Art Museum in Norway, the São Paulo Museum of Artin Brazil, the Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany, CentrePasquArt in Switzerland and Art Sonje Center, Korea. He has participated in the Taipei Biennale 2012, the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 (Chinese Pavilion), the 5th Seoul International Media Biennale in 2008, the 2nd Guangzhou Triennale in 2005, the New Orleans Biennale (2014), the Shanghai Biennale (2014), the 14th Istanbul Biennale (2015) and the Asia Pacific Triennale (2015).