Press Release


In response to the incorrect and false media reports about animal abuse that have appeared in connection with the exhibition Art and China after 1989, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao would like to make the following statement.

Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World is a comprehensive exhibition of art created in China in the two decades between the Tiananmen protest in 1989 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Through 120 works by some 60 artists and groups, the show highlights the ideas, experiences, and worldviews of two generations of artists from a country that has that has become central to the global conversation.

The exhibition is therefore a starting point for reflection and debate about the world today and the universal issues that concern us all from an open, respectful perspective.  It is important that fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and artistic freedom are defended and protected.

The installation comprised of the works Theater of the World and The Bridge includes live insects and reptiles. The Bridge is an arching, serpentine cage containing snakes and turtles crawling among scattered Chinese bronze sculptures of mythological animal forms. Beneath it, reptiles dart among insects inside the tortoise-like structure entitled Theater of the World. The work draws on Chinese cultural traditions and speaks to the dynamics of power.

All reptiles and insects included in the works above have been bred in captivity and transferred to the Museum after obtaining the necessary permits and confirmation by trained professionals that the conditions are safe and appropriate as per the veterinary report.    The Museum is working in consultation with, and advised by, a team of specialists who carry out the twice daily feeding, cleaning, and care of the insects and reptiles, as well as the maintenance of the structures. These tasks are done in the morning and evening outside Museum opening hours.

The structures are equipped with a special substratum, thermal insulation, light and heat lamps , as well as water dispensers, baths, and hydrogel pads in order to create a suitable environment and conditions for these species.

A Case Study of Transference is a video that documents the artist’s process, research, and final performance in 1994 that features a male and female farm-raised pig. There are no live pigs in the exhibition.  On the male pig are nonsense Roman letters hand-stamped in ink and on the female, gibberish Chinese characters also hand-stamped in ink. Conceived of as a cultural allegory, the work explores the relationship between humans, nature, and culture.  We absolutely reject the claims of animal abuse connected to this work.

We would like to stress the fact that the Museum defends the rights of every living being and this is why it has taken every step to provide optimal conditions for these species.




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