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Cui Xiuwen was born in 1970 in Harbin, China. She attended the Fine Arts School of Northeast Normal University and graduated in 1990. She then went on to study at China's Central Academy of Fine Arts and received her Master's of Fine Arts in 1996.
She currently lives and works in Beijing, China.
She has exhibited her work at Tate Modern, Florence Museum, Today Art Museum (Beijing), Fabien Fryns Fine Art, Eli Klein Fine Art Gallery (New York), Blindspot Gallery (Hong Kong), and Art Stage Singapore.
Cui has been identified with Chinese Feminism, but has also stated in an Artslant interview, "I think it's very limiting. It seems to just be a feature of the art market and very difficult to escape."
She is best known for her work Ladies' Room(2000), which was censored from being exhibited at the first Guangzhou Triennial. In this work, Cui hid an inconspicuous spy camera inside the ladies’ bathroom of a popular Beijing karaoke club, recording unfiltered conversations and candid moments of local call girls getting ready for clients. In her series of photographs titledExistential Emptiness (2009), a schoolgirl and her life-sized doll companion are depicted in sparse and snowy landscapes, tackling themes of adolescence, identity, and mortality.
In her Angel series, Cui features a pregnant Asian woman with porcelain skin and rosy cheeks in a “virginal” white dress. Since pregnancy of young unmarried girls is considered taboo in China, this series makes social commentary about the double standards and treatment of women in China.
Most of Cui’s work incorporates traditional Chinese scroll paintings, in which the natural landscape beauty is more important than the people.
Sanjie is Cui’s remake of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, in which all thirteen characters are played by the same girl, with a red scarf around her neck, thus to represent communist themes.
Cui’s major exhibitions include: Reincarnation, Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai, China (2014); The Love of Soul, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China (2014); Inspired by the Opera: Contemporary Chinese Photography and Video, Smart Museum of Art, the University of Chicago, Chicago (2014); IU: You & Me, Suzhou Art Museum, Suzhou, China (2013); Spiritual Realm, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China (2010); Talk Statement, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwan; National Museum of China, Beijing, China (2009); Our Future: The Guy & Myriam Ullens Collection, UCCA, Beijing, China (2008); Floating – New Generation of Art in China, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea (2007); The Thirteen: Chinese Video Now, MoMA PS1, New York, NY (2006); Untitled: Julia Loktev, Julika Rudelius, Cui Xiuwen, Tate Modern, London, UK (2004) and Alors, la Chine?, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2003).