Xu Bing accompanied the ART in Embassies team to Beijing to installat the second edition of “Monkeys Grasping for the Moon” in 2008. This complicated installation required a complete reworking as the first edition hangs in one chain. The second edition hangs in four strands and each strand had to be reconfigured. The process was similar to modifying the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The installation of this monumental work in the chancery building took approximately one week. In addition, Xu was commissioned to create a calligraphic work in honor of the U.S. and China’s 50 Years of Trade. Xu worked directly with post on this project over an extended time.
Xu Bing’s 96 ft. hanging Baltic birch word-puzzle Monkeys Grasping for the Moon (2001 and 2003) is now on view at the visa section of the new Embassy of the United States in Beijing, China.
Monkey Grasping for the Moon was originally created by Xu Bing in 2001 out of fiberglass for the exhibition Wordplay: Contemporary Art by Xu Bing at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The linked work, comprised of the word monkey in 21 languages, is based on an ancient Chinese folktale and hung for two years over the Sackler’s third level reflecting pool.
Due to its popularity with museum visitors, Monkeys was reconstructed from lacquered Baltic birch wood in 2003 in an edition of two identical 21 character sets and the original fiberglass model was destroyed. One of these sets was gifted to the Sackler by the family of Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Chiang Soong Mayling 1898–2003) in commemoration of her historic visits to the Joint Session of Congress in 1943 and her return to the U.S. Capitol in 1995.
In 2008, Xu Bing Studio was approached by the Art in Embassies (AIE). Discussions resulted in a long-term loan of the second set of Monkeys to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Monkeys is included in the exhibition Landscapes of the Mind, organized by AIE Chief Curator Virginia Shore alongside work by artists Jeff Koons, Robert Rauschenberg, Maya Lin, Yun Fei-ji and Cai Guo-qiang, among others.