Authenticity in the works of Lin Tianmiao, China’s most famous female artist

The Asia Society of New York currently has a retrospective on contemporary Chinese artist Lin Tianmiao that I went to see the other day.  I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t know much about the artist but unlike many an exhibition, I left a better person; as they say, “the penny dropped”.

Often I can’t quite get my head around some pieces of contemporary conceptual art regardless of the dizzying explanations by gallerists and critics.  It is at the museum that I realized that the reason for this is that many of the works produced today lack authenticity.


The idea of authentic art has somewhat been lost by the mainstream – today many people buy with their ears and not with their eyes (and head) and artists produce for these buyers so it becomes a sad vicious circle.  Luckily there is an artist today that oozes authenticity: Lin Tianmiao.
Born in 1961 in China, Lin grew up helping her mother winding balls of cotton thread for her sewing projects. The process is far from mindless; you see the basis of doing it correctly is to have an infinite amount of perseverance, concentration and patience.  Before you wind, you need to think how it will unwind otherwise you end up with unusable thread.  And it’s this experience that Lin came back to when she reinvented herself as an artist in her early 30s.
After an 8-year stint in Brooklyn, New York with her husband (the equally acclaimed artist Wang Gongxin), Lin went back to China in 1995 only to find venerated objects of the past being disregarded by the “new” and more open society.  It was by “embalming” these objects in thread (chopsticks, bicycles, tools and machines) that Lin began her artistic career. And she is on the ascent!
Much like another contemporary Chinese artist I wrote about previously, Wang Guangle, Lin’s work is rooted in her past and is a reflection of the present.  It’s remarkably authentic.
image credits: first and second images (Gallery Lelong, New York); portrait left (Jing Daily); portrait right ( Courtyard Gallery, Beijing); last image (Asia Society, New York). The above retrospective at the Asia Society runs through 27 January 2013.

PS: Thank you for stopping by and reading my feature today.  I love what I do as an interior designer and art advisor, and it’s my hope that through these blog posts I’m enriching and heightening your aesthetic sensibility towards art, design and fabulous interiors in some way ~ Richard Rabel (a.k.a. the modern sybarite)