We took a trip downtown today to do a little museum hopping. Although we don’t have a set pattern for the buildings we visit on the Mall, we almost always end up at the Sackler Gallery which, more often than not, presents an exhibit or two that serves pleasant surprise to our journey.

Today was no exception. Nestled in the rear corner of the main exhibit floor was complementary exhibition to Xu Bing’s Phoenix Project at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). The project consists of two giant Phoenix sculptures constructed from the remains and scrap from a large business complex built by migrant workers. When asked to commission the project, Bing was moved by the hard labor suffered by the migrant workers and chose a symbol of pride and power built from materials that were, in total, touched by the hands of these people. However, funding evaporated and the project was left incomplete and ultimately not to be displayed in the new commercial complex. A private investor came through and the stunning sculptures were displayed in China’s Today Art Museum before making their way across the oceans to appear in MASS MoCA.

The exhibit at the Sackler is minute in comparison to the gigantic sculptures. Two small scale models are surrounded by numerous drafts and sketches of the Phoenixes; but perhaps most interesting to the display is a seventeen minute film documenting the creation and plight of the sculptures. This film is also hosted at Vimeo and linked below; additionally, background of the project is available at the MASS MoCA website. I found it easy to be awed by the story and I’m already contemplating a road trip to Massachusetts to see the works in person.

Click here to see the video on Vimeo.

Finally, the interesting film uses the beautiful music of Hildur Gudnadottir as a wonderful compliment.

Images stolen from the Sackler and MASS MoCA websites.


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