Shanzhai Van Abbemuseum By Li Mu

Suzhou-based artist Li Mu has established a public library and installed a collection of contemporary artworks from the Van Abbemuseum in Qiuzhuang, the small village in Jiangsu Province where he was born. Qiuzhuang Project: A dispersed museum project includes works by Sol Lewitt, Richard Long, Andy Warhol, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Ulay & Marina Abramovic, Daniel Buren, and John Kormeling. With the exception of the video pieces, all the artworks in Qiuzhuang Project have been or are being fabricated on-site.

Here are Mu and an associate creating one of two of Lewitt wall paintings [images via]:



Earlier this year, after the library was up and running, Mu began fabricating copies of Lewitt's Untitled (Wall Structure) (1972) and distributing them to villagers, mirroring FREE SOL LEWITT, a 2010 project by SUPERFLEX, which sent full-size Lewitt copies home with museumgoers in Eindhoven. It's not clear whether the Qiuzhuang Lewitts are considered Lewitts, SUPERFLEXES, or Mus, but they look fantastic:




And that points to a complicated question. The Shanzhai (山寨) in the title usually implies a knockoff, a cheap or poorly made copy, ingenious perhaps, but an inferior or even illicit substitute for an authentic original. But none of that really applies to the art being made or shown here. From the Western or art-savvy perspective, at least, it's the context that's 山寨, not the work, specifically, the incongruity of seeing iconic contemporary artworks in this rural Chinese village setting. Which is pretty much the exact inverse of the project's primary audience, the residents of Qiuzhuang.

I wonder what the impact of the project will be? The library, we're told, will be permanent. But will Qiuzhuang experience an influx of art-related tourism for the show? How will that go? Or if not, what will that mean?

Is there a visitor guide? A map? Will the grocery store be thrilled, annoyed, or disappointed by daytrippers coming to see Ulay & Ambramovic's bow & arrow video? How much of the contemporary art/culture/ museum/ economic development paradigm is actually being transplanted here? Will speculators descend on the town and try to buy up the Lewitt/SUPERFLEX/Mu sculptures? Will Mu be able to exhibit Mao paintings that were censored when they were by technically by Warhol?


The Van Abbemuseum is one of the more sophisticated institutions when it comes to engaging such questions. And Li Mu seems fairly well-attuned to the subtleties of both his art and his hometown. It will be interesting to see what unfolds as the Qiuzhuang Project continues.

I Am Li Mu []
ArtHub Asia is a sponsor of the Qiuzhuang Project []
The Van Abbemuseum seems not yet to have a permanent page for the Qiuzhuang Project []
Previously: Fau Sol Mio: FREE SOL LEWITT by SUPERFLEX

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: June 7, 2013.

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