From above and afar, you would be excused for mistaking this great work with the lavish furnishing of a tiger skin rug. However, it’s when one steps closer that they notice the unusual material making up this 40-foot work of art – 500,000 cigarettes. The Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing began working on his tobacco project in 2000, this 440-pound rug forming the climax of his ensuing exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2011 – The Tobacco Project. The entire study explores the international trade, packaging, marketing and seduction of a deadly smoking habit. Bing chose Virginia to exhibit his work, as the eastern American state is traditionally known as the home of mass produced tobacco products. The artist visited tobacco farms, warehouses and cigarette factories in Virginia to create the work for this exhibition, which also includes pieces from his previous projects on the same topic. Using tobacco as both a material and a subject in which to explore a wide range of issues, Bing’s work relates to issues from global trade to the exploitation of tobacco. His interest in ‘tobacco culture’ extends further to the historical impact of China’s large-scale exportation of tobacco products from the United States, which originally began in the late 19th century.
For more information on the making of Bing’s Tiger Skin Rug: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfygs7A-Nb0
Image source: My Modern Met