This interview was conducted at Li Xianting's home in Songzhuang, Beijing on 6 November 2007. 


Li Xianting (b. 1949) is an art critic and curator based in Beijing.

Li graduated from the Department of Chinese Painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1978. The following year, he became an editor of Art (Meishu) magazine, and in this capacity, encouraged the publication of articles about the 'Stars' exhibitions and other experimental art events. However, following the magazine’s January 1983 issue in which several articles about abstract art appeared, Li was criticized as a radical and suspended from his post.

In 1985, Li Xianting became an editor of Fine Arts in China (Zhongguo meishubao) and spearheaded reporting about the ’85 New Wave. Li was a major organizer of the ‘China/Avant-Garde Exhibition’ at the National Art Museum of China (Beijing, 1989).

Since 1989, Li has worked as an independent art critic and curator. In 1993, Li Xianting co-curated ‘China’s New Art, Post-1989’ in Hong Kong. A selection of Li’s articles entitled The Significance is Not the Art (Zhongyao de bushi yishu) was published by Jiangsu Art Publishing House in 2000.




In 2006, Asia Art Archive began a focused archiving project called 'Materials of the Future: Documenting Contemporary Chinese Art from 1980-1990'. This project aimed at developing a comprehensive collection of primary research materials including books, periodicals, newspapers, exhibition brochures, invitations, video recordings, correspondence, and other relevant documents. 

As part of this project, AAA digitised more than 80,000 items of material from personal archives to include artists Mao Xuhui, Wu Shanzhuan, Zhang Xiaogang, and Zhang Peili; curators and critics Fei Dawei, Lu Peng, and Zheng Shengtian; as well as the archives of Tokyo Art Gallery. As part of the research process over 75 in-depth interviews with key artists, curators, and critics were conducted. From a portion of these interviews, AAA created a documentary film about experimental art in South China (Guangzhou) in the 1980s entitled From Jean-Paul Sartre to Teresa Teng: Contemporary Cantonese Art in the 1980s.

AAA’s 1980s archiving project culminated with the launch of a comprehensive website portal called in September 2010.

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Interview: Li Xianting (English subtitles)