‘The Biggest Taboo’: An Interview with Qiu Zhijie

One of China’s most influential artists is forty-eight-year-old Qiu Zhijie. A native of southern China’s Fujian province, Qiu studied art in the eastern city of Hangzhou before moving to Beijing in 1994 to pursue a career as a contemporary artist. At the time, contemporary art was illegal in China and artists often lived in villages on the outskirts of town, held underground exhibitions, and were patronized almost exclusively by foreigners. Qiu quickly made a name for himself as one of China’s leading artists, creating one of the most famous images of that era: a picture of himself from the waist up, shirtless, against a white wall with an enormous red character, 不, or “No,” painting across

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