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Tiger skin rug made from cigarettes

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Made from 500,000 individual cigarettes and weighing an incredible 440 pounds, this mock tiger skin rug is the creation of former Duke University student Xu Bing.

Currently on exhibit at the Virginia Museum of FIne Arts, the painstakingly put together tobacco artwork meant to highlight global trade, packaging and how people are seduced into deadly smoking habits.

Designed through initial sketches laid out onto the floor of the Virginia museum, the tiger rug piece is the culmination of a decade long exploration of the tobacco trade for 56-year old Xu.

Known as one of China's most prominent and influential artists, the Beijing resident began his cigarette artwork at Duke in the US at the turn of the century and has delved into the relationship between smoking and packaging.

"Xu Bing: Tobacco Project explores the production and culture of tobacco as seen through the eyes of one of China’s most ground-breaking contemporary artists," said a spokesperson for Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

"The artist visited tobacco farms, warehouses and cigarette factories in Virginia to create the work for this exhibition, which also includes pieces from the artist’s previous projects on this topic.

"Altogether, this exhibition spans 12 years and surveys one of his most ambitious undertakings."

The artist chose Virginia to exhibit his work as the eastern American state is traditionally known as the home of mass produced tobacco products.

“Virginia’s long history with tobacco makes Tobacco Project a particularly relevant exhibition,” said Alex Nyerges, director of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

“Xu Bing is one of China’s most recognised and celebrated contemporary artists, and we are pleased to feature this noted artist’s work at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.”

Using tobacco as both a material and a subject in which to explore a wide range of issues, Xu Bing's work relates to topics from the global trade to the exploitation of tobacco.

Xu Bing’s interest in “tobacco culture” extends to the historical impact of China’s large-scale exportation of tobacco products from the United States that began in the late 19th century.

“Xu Bing brings his usual wit and insight to his work with tobacco, as well as his sense of craft and showmanship," said John Ravenal Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the museum.

"Viewers will see exquisite books of poetry printed on cigarette paper and matchbooks, and a forty-foot tiger-skin rug made of half a million cigarettes.

"The exhibition will be a stunning and thought-provoking display of Xu Bing’s innovative art.”

Images: Barcroft

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