Wu Hung, “Outdoor Exhibitions in Beijing, 1979”

Professor Wu Hung will be at the VMPEA & APEA joint workshop on April 28th (Friday) from 4pm-6pm CT at CWAC 152 to share his latest research titled “Outdoor Exhibitions in Beijing, 1979,” and Professor Paola Iovene will offer a response. Please note that there is a pre-circulated paper for this workshop, available here under the password “outdoor.” If you would like to join us for the reception from 6pm-8pm CT, please kindly RSVP by April 25 (Tuesday).


Wu Hung


“Outdoor Exhibitions in Beijing, 1979,”

with a response from Paola Iovene


April 28th (Friday), 4pm-6pm CT, 2023

Cochrane-Woods Art Center, 152

*This workshop will be livestreamed on Zoom, please use this link if you plan to attend virtually. No registration is required. Pw: outdoor.

An outdoor art exhibition in Beijing, 1979.



In most writing about contemporary Chinese art, the primary significance of the Stars Art Exhibition (1979) is believed to lie in its choice of venue: held in the small street park outside of the National Art Gallery of China, it moved the site of art exhibition from indoors to outdoors and from museums to public space, displaying works of young “outsider” artists to street crowds. This emphasis on location is undoubtedly correct, but because many studies discuss this exhibition as a singular event, they ignore its relationship to other artistic activities at the time. As a result, the interpretation is frequently skewed, either overemphasizing its uniqueness or overlooking its specificity. An important artistic phenomenon in Beijing in 1979 was the occurrence of multiple outdoor art exhibitions, which have not yet received sufficient scholarly attention. This study attempts to assemble the available materials to provide a general introduction to these exhibitions, to reflect on their shared historical context and characteristics, and to reexamine the Stars Art Exhibition within this context.


Wu Hung holds the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professorship at the Department of Art History and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, and is also the director of the Center for the Art of East Asia at the same university. An elected member of the American Academy of Art and Science and the American Philosophic Society, he sits on multiple domestic and international committees. He has received many awards for his publications and academic services, including the Distinguished Teaching Award (2008) and Distinguished Scholar Award (2018) from the College of Art Association (CAA), an Honorary Degree in Arts from Harvard University (2019), and the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art from CAA (2022). Wu Hung’s research interests include both traditional and contemporary Chinese art, and he has published many books and curated many exhibitions in these two fields. His interdisciplinary interest has led him to experiment with different ways to tell stories about Chinese art, as exemplified by his Monumentality in Early Chinese Art and Architecture (1995), The Double Screen: Medium and Representation of Chinese Pictorial Art (1996), Remaking Beijing: Tiananmen Square: the Creation of a Political Space (2005), The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs (2010), A Story of Ruins: Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture (2012), Zooming In: Histories of Photography in China (2016), and Space in Art History (2018). His three newest books from 2022 and 2023 include Chinese and Dynastic time (Princeton University Press), Spatial Dunhuang: Experiencing the Mogao Caves (Washington University Press), and The Full Length Mirror: A Global Visual History (Reaktion Books).


Paola Iovene is an associate professor of modern Chinese literature in the department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Tales of Futures Past: Anticipation and the Ends of Literature in Contemporary China (2014) and the editor of Cultures of Labor in Contemporary China (Special issue of positions: asia critique, May 2023).


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