Collection 1980s–Present


Before and After Tiananmen

Fall 2019–Fall 2020


Xiao Lu. Dialogue. 1989. Chromogenic color print, printed 2006, 31 7/8 × 47 1/8" (81 × 119.7 cm). Gift of Bingyi Huang. © 2019 Xiao Lu
  • MoMA, Floor 2, 207 The David Geffen Wing

During the period marked by the 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square, many artists in China produced works that captured the insurgent spirit of the time. Artists used a range of new techniques and staged provocative, sometimes absurdist actions, like firing a gun at their own installation, lathering a chicken with soap, or lighting fireworks sewn into their jeans. These defiant artworks marked a new sense of agency and international dialogue, and challenged the Chinese government’s censorship of cultural production. With an increasing interest in mediums like performance and video, artists reflected on the tension between individualism and collectivism. Others, responding to radical socioeconomic shifts and rampant urbanization, produced art that explored nature, land, territory, and conditions of impermanence.

Organized by Roxana Marcoci, The David Dechman Senior Curator, Department of Photography, with Giampaolo Bianconi, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance.

24 works online


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].