Our Photo of the Day series this week shares photos of recent openings at 798 and Caochangdi, adjacent creative zones central to Beijing’s contemporary art world.
For its latest show, private 798 museum M WOODS takes a break from its regularly scheduled programming of wild future shit and focuses instead on the distant past. In fact, the institution is currently housing two separate shows. The first floor is filled up with mock caves recreating the distinctive grotto art of Kizil, Xinjiang, which like its bigger and more famous cousin Dunhuang was a stopping point for Silk Road traders and an index for centuries of Buddhist iconography.
The Kizil grottoes are renowned for their polychrome murals, which were painted between the 3rd and 8th centuries, and mostly destroyed, looted, or surreptitiously removed by foreign powers in the early 20th century. The first floor M WOODS installation was created by the Chinese State-funded Kucha Research Institute, and gives the viewer an idea of what the caves might have looked and felt like in their original state.
The second-floor exhibit, Monks and Artists, is curated by M WOODS and hinges around their recent acquisition of three fragments of Kizil mural art. In repatriating these fragments — one of which is displayed in truly grandiose fashion, spotlit at the end of a long, otherwise dark hall — M WOODS has become the first private institution in China to bring Kizil art back into the country. (The majority of the mural fragments remain in the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin.)
Elsewhere in Monks and Artists, M WOODS puts the Kizil fragments into dialogue with a range of contemporary works, as well as antiquities from other times and places, including this curious collection of ancient busts with missing noses:
At our recent visit, the exhibit was soundtracked with a live performance by Beijing electronic music producer and Shanshui label founder Sulumi, aka Sun Dawei:
Read more about the show here.