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Contemporary Chinese art is often cleverly calibrated for a western market, and it can fetch millions. But is this calculation part of its mastery?

By Ben Lewis   June 2008

Anyone for conceptual calligraphy? Chinese artist Xu Bing’s first major British exhibition at the Albion gallery in London displays large sheets of what looks like Chinese calligraphy. Yet each calligraphic sign, almost always painted in a light black hue, is artfully composed of the letters of one English word. One would have to spend an exhausting month in the gallery to decipher this strange language, which Bing calls “square word calligraphy.” Pressed for time, I availed myself of some information in the gallery offices. One work is titled, in calligraphy of course, Quotation from Chairman Mao—and there follows a particularly…

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