Chinese Artist Xu Bing Scoops £40,000 Artes Mundi Prize

By Andrew Alexander | 29 March 2004
Shows a photograph of Xu Bing standing behind a see-through lecturn, speaking into a microphone. There are three people standing behind him, while behind them there is a banner, carrying the logo of the Artes Mundi prize.

Photo: Xu Bing, the first winner of the £40,000 Artes Mundi Prize for visual art.

Andrew Alexander dusted down his sharpest suit, ironed a shirt and headed to the Welsh capital to see the award ceremony for this prestigious prize.

The first ever £40,000 Artes Mundi visual arts prize has been won by an artist using dust from Ground Zero in New York.

Beijing-born Xu Bing, who saw the World Trade Centre come down, was given the prize at a ceremony on March 28 in Cardiff’s National Museum and Gallery.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan, speaking at the ceremony, said: "We have had some contemporary art which is not shock or schlock. It was first rate knock-you-out stuff."

Shows a photograph of Xu Bing standing on a scaffolding platform, above one of his artworks. The piece uses dust to spell out the sentence "As there is nothing from the first, where does the dust collect itself?"

Photo: "Where Does the Dust Collect Itself?" by Xu Bing.

Organisers hope Artes Mundi (arts of the world), with a purse twice that of the Tuner prize, will become a high-profile feature on the arts landscape.

Mr Morgan said visitor numbers to the museum during the exhibition were double the same period last year.

Bing’s winning installation, Where does the dust collect itself? was made using scattered dust from the collapsed World Trade Centre.

Worried that he would be unable to bring the powder through customs, the artist cast it into the shape of a child’s doll for its trip to the UK.

After passing through a coffee grinder the dust was blown onto the gallery floor in Cardiff, leaving in the centre the message:

"As there is nothing from the first, where does the dust collect itself?"

Shows a photograph of Xu Bing in profile, blowing some dust out of his one gloved hand. The dust has formed a small cloud just above his hand.

Photo: Xu Bing installing "Where Does the Dust Collect Itself?". Photo by Jeff Morgan.

48-year-old Bing, who travelled from his New York home to the ceremony yesterday, said: "I feel lucky, but also it’s inspired me to work harder. I need to do more."

"I think for me, more important than the money is the fact that it’s an honour. That’s the prize for me."

A skilled calligrapher whose work often involves language, Bing left China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, from where he collected a tank-flattened bicycle.

"I’m surprised to win because all of the artists are really good, really bright. For a long time I’ve paid attention to what they are doing so when we had the chance to show together I knew it would be exciting," he said.

Shows a dvd still of a person from the neck down playing a snare drum with two sticks. The person is sitting down and his hands appear to be in motion.

Photo: Drumming II 2003, by Tim Davies. 2 x dvd screens, 2 x postcards. Photo: Andrew Hamley.

The work of the 10 shortlisted artists includes video installations and sculptures. The only British artist to make the list was Swansea-born Tim Davies.

The judges were meant to reach a decision by 16.30 yesterday, but took an extra hour to agree.

The prize is paid for by various organisations including the Welsh Assembly Government and BBC Wales, and funding is already in place for the next award in 2006.

Founding Chairman William Wilkins said: "We hope this first Artes Mundi prize will send ripples out which make connections for years to come."

The exhibition continues at the National Museum and Gallery, Cardiff until April 18.

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