Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art

October 2, 2008 – January 25, 2009

Installation view of Chen Qiulin's Rhapsody on Farewell (2002), River, River (2005), Color Lines (2006), and Garden (2007).

Installation view of Chen Qiulin's Rhapsody on Farewell (2002), River, River (2005), Color Lines (2006), and Garden (2007).

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangzi River in China is a massive project entwined in controversy.

When finally completed, it will stand as the world’s largest generator of hydro-electric power, with a yearly output equal to that of fifty million tons of coal or fifteen nuclear power plants. However, the dam’s 375-mile reservoir has already displaced over one million people and submerged over one thousand towns and villages.

This exhibition presents work that four leading contemporary Chinese artists—Chen Qiulin, Yun-Fei Ji, Liu Xiaodong, and Zhuang Hui—have created in response to the Three Gorges Dam.

Despite differences in backgrounds and artistic practices, these artists have engaged with the theme of displacement, responding to the movement of people, the demolition of old towns and construction of new cities, and the astonishing changes the project is bringing to the local landscape.

The powerful works on view represent four major branches of contemporary Chinese art: ink painting, realist oil painting, conceptual photography, and performance and new media art. Moving beyond any single medium or trend, Displacement offers nuanced, thought-provoking perspectives on a project of great social, environmental, and global concern.


Featuring scholarly essays and interviews with the artists, the richly illustrated exhibition catalogue is available at the Smart Museum Shop.

Related programs

Members Preview Tour
October 1, 2008

Opening Reception and Lecture
October 2, 2008

Teacher Workshop
October 4, 2008

Displacement: China/Chicago
October 10, 2008

"A Great Wall" with Orville Schell and Deirdre Chetham
October 11, 2008

Public Tour
October 19, 2008

Current Concerns: Contemporary Artists and Issues
October 30, 2008

Artist Talk: Liu Xiaodong
November 7, 2008

Public Exhibition Tour (in Mandarin and English)
November 9, 2008

Lunch-hour Talk: Waterworks: China/Chicago
November 14, 2008

Family Day: Check Out China!
November 16, 2008

Smart Focus: The River in Chinese Landscape
November 23, 2008

Cross Campus Tour
January 25, 2009

Related Film Series

Rainclouds Over Wushan
October 5, 2008

Still Life
November 2, 2008

Bing Ai
December 7, 2008

Before the Flood
January 11, 2009

Exhibition Tour

Salt Lake Art Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, November 21, 2009 – February 28, 2010

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, March 25 – July 18, 2010.