richmond,-va

Xu Bing, 1st Class, 2011, approx. 450,000 1st Class brand cigarettes, dimensions variable.

Xu Bing

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)

Xu Bing, 1st Class, 2011, approx. 450,000 1st Class brand cigarettes, dimensions variable.

“Xu Bing: Tobacco Project” at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts concluded a trilogy of exhibitions (the previous two were mounted in Durham, North Carolina, and Shanghai in 2000 and 2004, respectively) in which the Beijing-based artist traced the global dissemination and commodified afterlives of the ubiquitous tobacco plant—from seed and soil to packaging and commercial ephemera—and the relations forged between China and the US around this nicotine-laced cash crop. In the project’s most recent iteration, Xu highlighted the enduring reputation of Virginia as the seat of premium tobacco production despite the depressed economic realities of tobacco farming in the region. Indeed, even though China is currently the world’s leading tobacco grower, Chinese cigarette companies often market their homegrown products with labels reading “Virginia Tobacco” (a common nickname for

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