The Silent Strength of Liu Xia opened on February 9 at the Italian Academy  at  Columbia University to a crowd of over two hundred people. It it is the first and only exhibition of Chinese artist Liu Xia’s work in the United States. A poet and photographer, Liu was placed under house arrest after her husband Liu Xiabo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. At the opening reception, curator Guy Sorman, who smuggled the photos out of China and organized their first exhibition in Boulogne-Billancourt, France before bringing them to New York, spoke about the difficulties and dangers involved in organizing the exhibit. Addressing the crowd, he told everyone that they were there to honor Liu Xia, who agreed to have her work exhibited on the condition that she not find out where and when her work was being displayed. That way, if representatives of the Chinese government come to interrogate her about the exhibits, she can say she doesn’t know anything.

As Sorman explains in a video commenting on the exhibit, there are two different art scenes in China today. There are the government sanctioned artists whose work gets exported and there are the underground artists whose work we never hear about, often for political reasons. Liu Xia’s haunting photographs show dolls that she calls her “ugly babies” set in chiaroscuro tableaux symbolic of confinement and repression. Liu’s work focuses on the struggle for freedom of expression, sending an important message about contemporary China.

The exhibition was co-sponsored by The Alliance Program, Columbia University and the Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt, France. It continues until March 1, and will then travel to Madrid. Gallery hours are weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Saturdays from 12:00 to 6:00 pm.

The Silent Strength of Liu Xia
Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America
1161 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Follow Untapped Cities on Twitter and Facebook! Get in touch with the author @LauraItzkowitz.