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Artist Wang Qingsong working on artwork hung on a wall

FREE, Registration recommended.

Advance Insider  tickets available Friday, September 8, 12 pm EST (space is limited)
General tickets  available Monday, September 11, 12 pm EST 

We strongly recommend claiming a ticket to ensure your seat. This in-person program is expected to be at capacity.
Questions? Email Hirshhornexperience@si.edu
Hirshhorn Insiders, email HMSGdevelopment@si.edu 


Artist Wang Qingsong joins Hirshhorn curator Betsy Johnson for a conversation about the creation of his heavily staged photographs and the use of photography as a tool to comment on culture and society.

Wang Qingsong is a contemporary photographer, who creates large-scale, densely packed images that offer colorful commentary about society in China and beyond. Embracing artifice and theater, the artist himself poses as a protagonist in many of the works, which are strewn with cultural references ranging from canonical works of Western art history, such as Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (c. 1484–1486) and Man Ray’s Ingres’s Violin (1924) to religious themes, classical narratives, and contemporary events. These works combine an overabundance of symbolic elements into sweeping, sometimes ostentatious visions of the new China.


Wang Qingsong lives and works in Beijing and took a non-traditional path to become an artist. Needing to support his family after his father passed away, he worked as a driller for an oil company for many years before his mother encouraged him to pursue an art degree in his mid-twenties. He moved to Beijing after graduation, and started to incorporate photography into his work, first printing images scanned from magazines on silk velvet before adopting Photoshop to create digitally layered works around 1996. After growing frustrated with digital technology, he began working with a Beijing film studio in 2000, casting and staging models in elaborate tableaux that he turned into richly detailed photographs, some of which are panoramas upwards of 30 feet long.


A Window Suddenly Opens: Contemporary Photography in China is the Hirshhorn’s first survey of photography by leading multigenerational Chinese artists over the last 30 years. The exhibition showcases 186 artworks by 25 artists, the majority of which are a landmark promised gift to the Hirshhorn from pioneering collector of Chinese art Larry Warsh.

A Window Suddenly Opens chronicles how, over three decades, Chinese artists embraced the immediacy of photography during an unprecedented cultural shift away from the collective to a revived focus on the self. The exhibition’s title is drawn from a 1997 publication, a near manifesto, by Rong Rong and Liu Zheng that announced a shift in the practice of photography away from realism toward a conceptual art practice.


September 28, 2023
12:00 pm–1:00 pm
Event Categories:


Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Museum, Independence Ave SW & 7th St SW
Washington, DC 20560 United States
View Venue Website


Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
View Organizer Website


Location detail
Meet in the lobby