Lee Mingwei: You Are Not a Stranger

Jill Snyder, Executive Director

March 15, 2019August 11, 2019

As the centerpiece of moCa’s 50th anniversary celebration suite of exhibitions, we present a group of seminal works by famed Taiwanese artist Lee Mingwei. You Are Not a Stranger continues a dialogue with the artist, who we presented in his first solo exhibition in a US museum twenty years ago. From March 15—July 28, 2019, this presentation, which includes sculpture, photography, installation, and performance, offers a series of unique and powerful interactive experiences with art. The exhibition includes four of the artist’s well-known works: Sonic Blossom (2013), The Moving Garden (2009), The Mending Project (2009), and 100 Days of Lily (1995). Each is designed to enchant and inspire audiences, and cultivate giving, reciprocity, and connection among strangers.

Lee Mingwei (1964, Taiwan, lives and works in New York and Paris) is an internationally-acclaimed artist, renowned for his participatory mixed-media installations that explore how acts of generosity can nurture interaction and connection among individuals. Australia-based writer and curator Emily Wakeling reflects, Lee Mingwei “requires spectators to go beyond a passive visual reception and take the work deeper into their hearts and minds.”

Sonic Blossom (2013) is an interactive performance that imparts the gift of song to visitors. On designated days in May, a locally-trained soloist wearing an elaborate costume will select and sing one of Franz Schubert’s lieders (German poems set to music) to a museum guest who is seated in a specially-designed chair. For this participatory work, moCa partnered with the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) to identify student singers to perform. After moCa's performances during Friday, Saturday, and Sundays in May, the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) will present the work in its European painting galleries in July.

The Moving Garden (2009), like Sonic Blossom, is a participatory artwork that features a 45-foot granite table with a central, meandering channel that holds 100 fresh flowers. Visitors are invited to take a flower, which they must give to a stranger upon leaving the Museum. The cycle restarts each day as the table is replenished with new flowers.

The Mending Project (2009), the third interactive and participatory installation in this presentation aims to create meaningful, tangible connections between strangers. The project invites community members to bring a garment or textile in need of repair to moCa. Here, visitors will encounter a volunteer mender seated at a long table before a wall ornamented with spools of colorful thread. Many of these threads are already connected to neatly folded and repaired garments on a nearby table. The visitor will present their garment and the mender will invite them to sit and talk while their garment is mended. The mended items will remain on the table, attached to its thread, until the show’s conclusion. The Mending Project encourages strangers to share in the gift of conversation.

The final work in this exhibition, and the oldest on view also, 100 Days of Lily (1995) is a photographic portrait of a project in which Lee cultivated and raised a single lily from seed to death. In response to grieving his grandmother’s death, Lee spent every moment with this flower until it too died, documented his own activities as the flower moved through its natural life cycle.

Lee Mingwei’s work has gained wide recognition through solo shows at major institutions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts Boston; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland; Centre Pompidou Paris; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei. His work has been featured in biennials in Venice, Lyon, Liverpool, New York, and Sydney and Asia Pacific Triennials. Selected recent group exhibitions include: Language of Flowers, Asia University Museum of Modern Art,Taichung, Taiwan (2018); Common Threads: Weaving Stories Across Time, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA (2018); New Materialism, Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden (2018); Declaration, Institution for Contemporary Art, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA (2018); PEACE, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany (2017); Person of the Crowd, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA (2017); Don't You Think It's Time For Love?, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia (2016); and Guest what?, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan (2015).

All current exhibitions are funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Leadership Circle gifts from anonymous donors, Yuval Brisker, Joanne Cohen and Morris Wheeler, Margaret Cohen and Kevin Rahilly, Grosvie and Charlie Cooley, Becky Dunn, Lauren Rich Fine, Harriet Goldberg, Agnes Gund, Michelle and Richard Jeschelnig, Kohl Family, Jan Lewis, Toby Devan Lewis, and Scott and Kelly Mueller. 

All moCa Cleveland exhibitions are supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, The Cleveland Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, and the continuing support of the Museum’s Board of Directors, patrons, and members.

Sherwin-Williams is the official paint of moCa Cleveland.

Major support for this exhibition provided by Anonymous, DLR Group | Westlake Reed Leskosky, The John P. Murphy Foundation, and the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan and Taipei Cultural Center in New York.

Sonic Blossom is presented in partnership with Cleveland Institute of Music, Art Song Festival, and Cleveland Museum of Art.

Additional support for Sonic Blossom provided by Rebecca and Irad Carmi.

Additional support for The Moving Garden provided by Plantscaping & Blooms.