Some pairings are straightforward, others oblique. The youngest artist, Qiu Ting, born in 1971, chose a misty Northern Song landscape from the museum’s great Chinese holdings and made his own version of it. Two artists, Li Huayi and Zeng Xiaojun, went for masterpiece gold in the form of Cheng Rong’s renowned “Nine Dragons” and came back with landscapes, but in unorthodox formats: Mr. Li’s stretches over several large sheets of paper; Mr. Zeng’s is framed as a free-standing screen. Li Jin updated an 11th-century scroll of scholars at a gathering by adding his Falstaffian self to the company. The show’s sole female artist, Yu Hong, paid homage to the 12th-century scroll “Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk” by — beautifully — transforming its figures into contemporary women.
One artist, Liu Dan, created an in-the-round depiction of a scholar’s rock by painting it from nine different angles: a portrait. Another, Xu Bing, cut-and-pasted a landscape entirely from painting-manual illustrations. A third, Qin Feng, used inscriptions on an ancient bronze to make a series of huge books.
The excellent Beijing artist Liu Xiaodong, reacting to the violence he found in a Ming dynasty narrative, painted portraits of Boston high school students. In the most surprising match the New York artist Arnold Chang did an ink-and-brush riff on a long, horizontal, 1949 Jackson Pollock drip painting, in a pairing that pointed up the abstraction in Chinese art and also acknowledged the new wing’s debut: a very similar Pollock can be found in the Art of the Americas installation.