” Chinese methods and Western methods are different, and I was determined to return to Chinese methods. Chinese methods revere spontaneity, but also stress regularity. You must observe closely and imprint things in your memory, but when you start, you can’t be a stickler; you must simply let loose.

I think that sculpture should be focused on people and the depiction of people, because people are social beings and creators of art. When we lose people and the human spirit, art loses its soul.”

Central Academy of Fine Arts

“Chinese Methods: A Liu Shiming Sculpture Exhibition”

Global Traveling Exhibition

To commemorate and promote Chinese sculptor Liu Shiming and his distinctive and important contributions to the development of modern Chinese sculpture, the Central Academy of Fine Arts established the Liu Shiming Sculpture Museum at the Central Academy of Fine Arts on December 24, 2018.

As the first museum named after a sculptor in the hundred-year history of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, this museum will continue to research and investigate Liu’s artworks and their art historical meaning. An annual academic exhibition centered around one aspect of Liu’s sculpture will be planned, in addition to a global traveling exhibition. The Liu Shiming Sculpture Museum is a platform for studying, presenting, publishing, transmitting, and promoting Liu’s sculpture. This exhibition has become an important academic brand for the Liu Shiming Sculpture Museum, providing a model for the deep study of a specific artist within the context of the development of Chinese modern sculpture and the enrichment of research perspectives on this period in sculpture.

Performer Backstage

Liu Shiming was part of the first generation of sculptors in the People’s Republic of China. He was distinctive in his time for consciously choosing to root himself in Chinese traditional art and maintain a clear distance from the ideas and forms of Western sculpture, which held a commanding position at the time. Instead, he persistently grounded himself in a Chinese local context, uncovering various kinds of folk art within the Chinese tradition, and perpetuating ancient Chinese modeling methods. In
particular, he advocated for drawing nourishment from the Han-dynasty folk clay sculpture tradition and Chinese painted pottery culture, making them contemporary. When Liu activated these resources, he used what he called
“Chinese methods”—a love and respect for clay, a material that bears the wisdom and qualities of the Chinese and Eastern aesthetic, and a reverence for “kneading,” the modelling language that is intimately linked to Chinese
folk art. He recorded and presented myriad facets of daily life among the average people of his times, and with nearly half a century of practice and research under his belt, he found a distinctively Chinese path that is markedly different from the concepts and forms of Western sculpture, one that is underpinned by Eastern aesthetic principles. His work enriched and broadened Chinese modern sculpture, continued the contemporary transformation in Chinese traditional folk culture, and provided the development of Chinese culture and art today with rich experiences and practical explorations from which to learn.

Standing in the twenty-first century, when we look back on Liu Shiming’s half-century of sculptural explorations, we must marvel at his foresight and self-awareness. He was a rare intellectual of his time who always maintained clear understandings and preferences with regard to Eastern and Western culture. He was an intellectual who always retained pride and respect for his own culture. He was always faithful to his own cultural conscience and aesthetic tastes, and he set his own course, keeping his distance from trends and intellectual talking points. He persisted in his lonely, solitary exploration of Chinese sculpture using his own “Chinese methods.” Liu once said, “Perhaps after another two or three hundred years, people will think that my sculptures are pretty good.”

On its hundredth anniversary, the Central Academy of Fine Arts has launched a global traveling exhibition for “Chinese Methods: A Liu Shiming Sculpture Exhibition.” This exhibition offers the world more of China’s unique wisdom and provides more possibilities for us to understand the world, ourselves, and human nature, thereby enriching both the depth and breadth of our knowledge.

Boatman on the Yellow River

Chinese Methods: A Liu Shiming Sculpture Exhibition” Global Traveling Exhibition Plan 2019-2020

(1) The Liu Shiming Sculpture Museum at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing will open and hold its first exhibition in early October 2019. In the second half of October 2019, the touring exhibition will launch, with its first stop in New York and its second stop in Washington, DC. This exhibition at the second stop on the tour will likely close at the end of 2019, and beginning in 2020, the exhibition will make its third stop in Boston and its fourth stop in Los Angeles. The show in Los Angeles will be the opening exhibition for that institution. The planned traveling exhibition will feature approximately 150 works (adjusted based on the conditions at the exhibition site). The exhibition will last about one month at every stop, with installation and deinstallation periods in between stops. This part of the tour is scheduled to conclude at the end of March 2020.

(2) 2020 will mark the tenth anniversary of Liu Shiming’s death. On this occasion the museum will launch a ten-stop global traveling exhibition entitled “Chinese Methods: A Liu Shiming Sculpture Exhibition,” with Sydney, Australia, as its first stop. This tour is immensely meaningful, and the Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Liu Shiming Sculpture Museum will hold a press conference in early September 2019 to announce the global tour schedule.

About Liu Shiming

Liu Shiming (1926-2010) was an important Chinese sculptor. He was a member of the China Artists Association and one of the first members of the Chinese Sculptors Society. He also received an Honorary Subsidy for Special Contributions from the State Council.

Liu was born in Tianjin to a family of intellectuals. His father, Liu Baoshan, studied mechanics

at the University of Detroit Mercy from 1926 to 1931. His mother, Guo Suyu, graduated from the Tianjin Women’s High School. Liu Shiming was educated in traditional culture from an early age. As a child, he studied Han seals with master seal carver Wang Kuizhang in Tianjin and the Northern School of landscape with Ji Guanzhi at the Xuelu Painting Society in Beijing.


Liu enrolled in the Beiping Fine Arts School (now the Central Academy of Fine Arts), where

he studied with Wang Linyi and Hua Tianyou. In 1950, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sculpture. His graduation work, Measuring Land, won first prize in the “Red May” exhibition at CAFA and attracted the attention of president Xu Beihong. The work was selected

by the Central Academy of Fine Arts for an overseas exhibition and was later collected by the National Museum of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech National Museum).

Measuring Land


Liu enrolled in the graduate program for sculpture at CAFA. When he graduated that same

year, he proposed staying at the academy to teach under the auspices of Xu Beihong.


Liu participated in sculpting the reliefs on the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tian’anmen Square, a major national project. He served as an assistant to Liu Kaiqu and Wang Bingzhao and participated in the creation of Jintian Uprising and other reliefs.

Liu was transferred to the China Sculpture Factory (later the Central Academy of Fine Arts Sculpture Research Institute), and he participated in many national sculpture projects, including

sculptures for the Chinese People’s Revolution Military Museum square, the main sculptures for the People’s Gymnasium in Beijing, and the Underwater Work sculpture group on the

Hanyang Bridgehead of the Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan.

Liu created Cutting Through Mountains to Bring in Water, which became a classic of 1950s

Chinese art and made him a household name. The work was very positively received and widely publicized. On July 1, 1958, a 7.1-meter-high version of the work was placed by the Safeguarding Peace Archway at Beijing’s Zhongshan Park. The People’s Daily and many other

major domestic news outlets reported on the work. In 1959, he made a 2.26-meter-high version, which was sent to “The Plastic Arts from Socialist Nations” in Moscow. After the work returned to China, it was placed in front of the Baoding Train Station before being moved to Baoding’s Dongfeng Park.

Workers from the China Sculpture Factory with Cutting Through Mountains to Bring in Water in front of the Safeguarding Peace Archway.

Workers from the China Sculpture Factory with Cutting Through Mountains to Bring in Water in front of the Safeguarding Peace Archway

Liu left the China Sculpture Factory and subsequently worked in Henan and Hebei. He

experienced life for ordinary people in those areas, and he also investigated and studied cultural artifacts from those two places. He trained and developed talented sculptors in Henan and Hebei and participated in exhibitions and research at the Henan Museum.

Liu spent nearly seven years working in artifact restoration at the National Museum of Chinese

History (now the National Museum of China).

Liu returned to the Central Academy of Fine Arts to teach, and he reached another creative

peak. He created many important works during this time. His works were included annually in the Sixth through Ninth National Art Exhibitions. Liu was featured twice on the CCTV-1

program “Sons of the East.”

Exhibition History

Solo Exhibitions

1998 “An Exhibition of Liu Shiming’s Sculpture,” Central Academy of Fine Arts Corridor Gallery, Beijing, China

2006 “Local: Liu Shiming’s Sculptures,” Central Academy of Fine Arts Sculpture Research Institute, Beijing, China

2006 “Free Daisies: An Exhibition of Liu Shiming’s Sculpture,” National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China

2008 “Returning Home in a Dream: A Liu Shiming Sculpture Retrospective,” Henan Art Museum, Zhengzhou, China

“Free Daisies: An Exhibition of Liu Shiming’s Sculpture”

Group Exhibitions

1950 “The First World Student Gathering Art Exhibition,” Prague, Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia)

1959 “The Plastic Arts from Socialist Nations,” Central Exhibition Hall, Moscow, Russia (then Soviet Union)

1982 “Qian Shaowu, Liu Xiaocen, Wang Peng, and Liu Shiming: Calligraphy and Sculpture,” Central Academy of Fine Arts Gallery, Beijing, China

1984 “The Sixth National Art Exhibition,” National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China

1984 “National Sculpture Design Proposal Exhibition,” Beijing, China

1986 “July 1st Painting Exhibition,” Beijing, China
“Works by Instructors at the Central Academy of Fine Arts,” Beijing, China

  1. 1988  “Gansu Provincial Urban Sculpture Planning Exhibition,” Lanzhou, China
  2. 1989  “The Seventh National Art Exhibition,” National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China
  3. 1990  “The Eleventh Asian Games Sports Art Exhibition,” Beijing, China.
Eastward Flows the Yangtze
  1. 1992  “An Art Exhibition for the 50th Anniversary of Mao Zedong Publishing Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art,” National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China
  2. 1993  “The Eighth National Art Exhibition,” National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China
  1. 1996  “A Nation of Ceramics: A European Touring Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Ceramics,” various European countries
  2. 1997  “National and European Ceramics Traveling Exhibition,” Beijing, China
  1. 1999  “The Ninth National Art Exhibition,” National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China
  2. 2000  “Masters Celebrating Tsinghua: A Large-Scale Calligraphy Exhibition for the 90th Anniversary of Tsinghua University,” Beijing, China
  3. 2001  “A Selection of Contemporary Artists’ Works,” National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing, China
  1. 2001  “The Fifth National Sports Art Exhibition,” Beijing, China
  2. 2002  “2002 International Urban Sculpture Exhibition,” Beijing, China

2009 “Cornerstone: 60 Years of Oil Painting, Sculpture, and Prints,” Times Art Museum, Beijing, China

2014 “Painting the China Dream: Celebrating the 65th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China,” National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China

Looking at Each Other Through the Cage

Sculptures in Major Collections

1950 Measuring Land, National Museum of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech National Museum)

1952 Leaving the Hospital, National Art Museum of China

1955 Bust of Zeng Yihang and Bust of Zu Chongzhi, National Museum of Chinese History

1959 Solidarity Between Officers and Soldiers and The Jiyuan People’s Militia Crossing the River, Chinese People’s Revolution Military Museum

1959 Cutting Through Mountains to Bring in Water, Baoding Municipal Government 1985 Archer, Shijingshan Sculpture Park

1997 Boatman on the Yellow River, Ministry of Culture of China
1999 Ansai Waist DrummerCutting Through Mountains to Bring in Water, and Tiger and

Woman, National Museum of Chinese History (now the National Museum of China) 2008 Boatman on the Yellow River and Performer Backstage, Henan Art Museum
2012 Performer Backstage, National Center for the Performing Arts
2014 Cutting Through Mountains to Bring in Water, National Art Museum of China

Small Shop by the Road.

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