This online exhibition presents sculptures and reliefs by Beijing-based artist Yin Xiuzhen, a pioneer of Chinese performance and installation art since the early 1990s.

Yin uses everyday objects that, by virtue of their proximity to the bodies and daily lives of countless individuals, can act as poignant carriers of memories. Harnessing the affective and mnemonic power of such materials, especially secondhand clothes, her art registers collective experiences too often left out of national histories while pointing to disquieting, interconnected phenomena of global import: breakneck urbanization; unchecked environmental destruction; and globalization’s erasure of difference, among them. As with David before Goliath, Yin’s art confronts these challenges, turning its worn garments and brittle porcelain into potent conduits for what the artist calls “a spirit of invincibility.”


Detail, Yin Xiuzhen, Bookshelf No. 17, 2009-2013

Yin Xiuzhen, Bookshelf No. 17, 2009-2013, used clothes and wood, 50-3/16" x 33-7/16" x 11-5/8" (127.5 cm x 85 cm x 29.5 cm)
“The Chinese scholar Su Shi used to say that even Confucius started learning by reading books. Everyone’s personal experience is like a thick set of volumes.”

Yin Xiuzhen

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Installation view, Yin Xiuzhen: Second Skin, Pace Gallery, Beijing, Mar 18 – May 8, 2010 © Yin Xiuzhen

Yin Xiuzhen, Bookshelf No. 24, 2009-2013, Clothes, wood, and bookshelf, 102 cm x 56 cm x 23 cm (40-3/16" x 22-1/16" x 9-1/16")
“I’ve collected bookshelves from different places and have made new ‘clothes’ for the books to keep them warm. These are made from old clothes, which are actually miniature versions of people’s experiences, retaining the temperature and spirit of the bodies they used to cover.”

Yin Xiuzhen

Click to watch a video on Yin Xiuzhen's Portable Cities

Yin Xiuzhen, Portable City: Hangzhou, 2011, suitcase, clothes, magnifying glass, map, 64 cm × 150 cm × 88 cm (25-3/16" × 59-1/16" × 34-5/8") installed 80 cm × 28 cm × 88 cm (31-1/2" × 11" × 34-5/8") closed

Detail, Yin Xiuzhen, Wall Instrument No. 8, 2016

Yin Xiuzhen, Wall Instrument No. 2, 2016, porcelain, used clothes, 43 cm × 43 cm × 2.2 cm (16-15/16" × 16-15/16" × 7/8")
Yin Xiuzhen, Wall Instrument No. 8, 2016, porcelain, used clothes, 92 cm × 90 cm × 1 cm (36-1/4" × 35-7/16" × 3/8")

We are in contact with ceramics in our daily lives, but because of its commonness we tend to turn a blind eye to it. I want to pull something new out of it and make it different.

Yin Xiuzhen

Click to watch a video on Yin Xiuzhen's Porcelain Works

Yin Xiuzhen, Action No. 2, 2019, porcelain, used clothes, 93.5 cm × 88 cm × 4 cm (36-13/16" × 34-5/8" × 1-9/16")
Yin Xiuzhen, Action No. 3, 2019, porcelain, used clothes, 92 cm × 91 cm × 4 cm (36-1/4" × 35-13/16" × 1-9/16")
Yin Xiuzhen, Ceremonial Instruments No. 30, 2016, porcelain, used clothes, 92 cm × 33.5 cm × 31 cm (36-1/4" × 13-3/16" × 12-3/16")
Yin Xiuzhen, Wall Instrument No. 4, 2016, porcelain, used clothes, 85 cm × 57 cm × 5 cm (33-7/16" × 22-7/16" × 1-15/16")
Yin Xiuzhen, Blending Instrument – Knife No. 1, 2016, porcelain, knife, 35.6 cm × 29 cm × 4 cm (14" × 11-7/16" × 1-9/16")
“When you work with ceramics, at the beginning it is in clay form and, like dough, is very soft and pliable....This innately soft thing can confine metal, so the knife is imprisoned by the clay. Using the two materials together becomes a contest or battle. During the firing process, the sharpness of the knife slowly disappears. But this struggle leaves a mark—cracked porcelain. I think this kind of contest is pervasive, for example, in nature, between people or among animals. There is a struggle to achieve some sort of balance.”

Yin Xiuzhen on her Blending Instrument series


Detail, Yin Xiuzhen, Blending Instrument – Ruler No. 3, 2017

Yin Xiuzhen, Blending Instrument – Ruler No. 3, 2017, porcelain, ruler, 90 cm × 40 cm × 3.5 cm (35-7/16" × 15-3/4" × 1-3/8")

Yin Xiuzhen with her daughter in her studio, working on a Bookshelf piece © Yin Xiuzhen

To inquire about works by Yin Xiuzhen, please email

Yin Xiuzhen

A leading figure in Chinese contemporary art, Yin Xiuzhen is best known for her sculptures and installations that explore themes of the past and present, memory, globalization, and homogenization. Yin received a B.A. in oil painting from the Fine Arts Department at Capital Normal University in Beijing 1989. During this time, she moved away from painting in lieu of sculptural, performance, and installation work, often incorporating everyday materials, such as second-hand clothes, into processes that melded the fabrics with contrasting materials such as porcelain, bookcases, mirrors, and even a bisected mini-bus popular in China during the 1990s.

Learn More

  • Past, Yin Xiuzhen, In the Spirit of Invincibility, Jun 16, 2020