"As part of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library's endeavor to build diversified and unique collections in the 21st century, Xu Bing's donation will greatly enhance the library’s renowned Chinese collection, which has benefited faculty, students, and scholars at Columbia for more than 100 years," said Jim Cheng, director of the library.
The work exemplifies Xu Bing's Square Word Calligraphy system, which creates English language through Chinese brushstrokes. Upon close examination, Chinese-looking characters reveal themselves as actual English words, a reflection on the relationship Bing continually explores between written word and its meaning through his art.
The donation was commemorated on Tuesday, October 18, during an opening reception for Cinema China, Culture China: A Chinese Film and Culture Festival, a five-day festival put on by Columbia University Libraries and Lincoln Center, celebrating the relationship between the United States and China. It will be further celebrated in an unveiling ceremony with the artist when the piece is moved to Starr for permanent viewing in the central reading area in early 2012.
The piece is currently on display in the Wallach Art Gallery as part of the Square Word Calligraphy Classroom exhibition, which presents several other large-scale calligraphic works by Bing.
Since 2008, Bing has served as Vice President at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. In 2006, the Southern Graphics Council awarded Xu Bing their lifetime achievement award in recognition of the fact that his "use of text, language and books has impacted the dialogue of the print and art worlds in significant ways." In 2010, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Columbia University.