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Embroidered self portrait of Wei Wei as a mythical Chinese creature.

Heluo with Self-Portrait, 2023, by Ai Weiwei (Chinese, born 1957). Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.


Mythical Creatures: China and the World

Through June 1, 2025

This exhibition will explore the theme of diversity by comparing mythical creatures from different cultures. While these fantastical animals may look different, they serve a similar purpose – to help humans make sense of the world.

On view in Gallery 339 will be classic Chinese legendary mythical creatures—the dragon, phoenix and qilin—juxtaposed with collection highlights from Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, as well as Persia and Western Europe, to show the diversity of mythical creatures throughout the world, as well as their similarities and differences. Elaborately embroidered costumes and silver headdresses created by Miao, Yi and other minority peoples decorated with dragons, phoenixes, and creatures relating to origin myths will be on display in Gallery 326. In a third space (Gallery 321) Chinese contemporary works of mythical creatures by artists Xu Bing and Ai Weiwei show how the past continues to inform art today.

Main Building

Free with museum admission

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Pay What You Wish admission on 1st Sunday of the month

About the Artist

Ai Weiwei leads a diverse and prolific practice that encompasses sculptural installation, filmmaking, photography, ceramics, painting, writing and social media. A conceptual artist who fuses traditional craftsmanship and his Chinese heritage, he moves freely between a variety of formal languages to reflect on the contemporary geopolitical and sociopolitical condition. Since 2007, Ai Weiwei has been experimenting with toy bricks, which are mass produced in infinite quantities, reflecting the type of assembly made possible by the Information Age and globalization.

Ai Weiwei has exhibited extensively at institutions and biennials worldwide. He lives and works in Beijing (China), Berlin (Germany), Cambridge (UK) and Lisbon (Portugal). Ai Weiwei’s work and life regularly interact and inform one another, often extending to his activism and advocacy for international human rights.

A headshot of Ai Weiwei.

Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio

Xu Bing was born in Chongqing, China and raised in Beijing. He studied Printmaking at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and later joined the faculty. In 1990, he relocated to the United States where he began to consider language and his fascination with word forms. He is a multi-disciplinary artist who has worked with printmaking, calligraphy, installation art, sculpture, metalworking, and landscaping. His works combine western and eastern esthetics, mythology, and contemporary expression to playfully comment on notions of communication and interaction through cultures, traditions, and artistic styles.

Xu Bing’s work has been displayed in numerous prestigious venues worldwide and he has participated in several biennales internationally. He has been the recipient of several esteemed awards throughout his illustrious career and currently divides his time between Beijing and New York, where he lives and works.

Headshot of Xu Bing.

Courtesy of Xu Bing Studio


Mythical Creatures: China and the World is made possible by The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Global.


Hiromi Kinoshita, The Hannah L. and J. Welles Henderson Curator of Chinese Art

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