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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Couplet: Learning from the Past, Moving Forward in Time

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Couplet: Learning from the Past, Moving Forward in Time


Xu Bing

Chinese, born 1955

Contemporary artist Xu Bing, praised by Do Ho Suh as one of China’s most important artists, is internationally known for his installations that demonstrate how written words can be easily manipulated. Following the creation of his monumental Book from the Sky, for which he painstakingly carved some 4,000 illegible characters, Xu invented a new script in which characters are composed of alphabets. This couplet reads, "Learning from the Past; Moving Forward in Time. For the Seattle Art Museum."
Hanging scroll: ink on paper
56 1/2 x 16 3/4in. (143.5 x 42.5cm)
Gift of the artist in honor of Mimi Gardner Gates
Provenance: The artist, Beijing
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Luminous: The Art of Asia, Oct. 13, 2011 - Jan. 8, 2012.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Calligraphic Abstraction, May 9 - Oct. 4, 2015.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Chronicles of a Global East, Oct. 20, 2022 - Oct. 22, 2023.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM