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Mapping Chinese Art, 1972–2012: Selections from the M+ Sigg Collection

Mapping Chinese Art, 1972–2012: Selections from the M+ Sigg Collection

19 Mar 2019
Location: Online

Mapping Chinese Art, 1972–2012: Selections from the M+ Sigg Collection ('Sigg Online') is an online exhibition highlighting a selection of objects from the M+ Sigg Collection. It is rigorously curated and explores Chinese art spanning 1972–2012, set in the context of active artist groups, artistic movements, and historical events. The interface provides an alternative way for online audiences to discover the breadth of the M+ Sigg Collection. By tightly interweaving the artworks with both movement and important art and historical events, Sigg Online offers multiple entry points of which dynamically presents contemporary Chinese art and unpicks its complexities. M+ is committed to increasing access and enriching content available on Chinese contemporary art, and Sigg Online is one of the experimental initiatives for such purposes.

Visit the online exhibition

31 December 1974, Beijing. A cold winter night. A group of young artists secretly bring their paintings to a one-day private viewing in Zhang Wei's home in the Fusuijing Building, Xidan. Calling themselves No Name Group, they have been organising gatherings to paint together, creating art for art's sake that also defies the style of official art in China. This bourgeois liberalisation has put them in political danger, but has also opened up a slim window for free expression, sowing the seeds of an artistic awakening in the years to come.

Today, contemporary Chinese art is one of the liveliest and most diversified art phenomena in global art history. In the past forty years, it has experienced an unprecedented development, evolving rapidly in ways that it took Western art centuries to do.

There is a distinctive bond between art and society in the trajectory of contemporary Chinese art. The repressive sociopolitical conditions of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) created a strong desire for intellectual liberation, and this became a catalyst for the emergence of underground art collectives , such as No Name Group and Friday Photo Salon, in the mid-1970s. This sparked a modernist awakening and prompted the nationwide 1985 avant-garde art movement, which culminated in the 1989 China/Avant-Garde exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Beijing. Post-1989, contemporary Chinese art gathered attention outside of China and gained a prominent presence in the international art ecology, continuing after the 1990s and the 2008 Summer Olympics. As the country keeps growing and integrating with the globalised world, contemporary Chinese art relentlessly confronts new challenges that globalisation has brought along. It often maintains its provocative nature, operating in underground conditions and consisting of independent voices striving to act as checks and balances for society. Contemporary Chinese art is not an isolated field, and it progresses and evolves alongside social histories.

This online exhibition is an experiment to explore contemporary Chinese art and its complexities, using multiple entry points. Featuring selected paintings, sculptures, videos, and installation works from the M+ Sigg Collection, it provides a timeline allowing users to trace the development of this extraordinary art historical phenomenon, and the trajectory of individual artists. By tightly interweaving artworks with both art movements and important events, the exhibition creates a spatial structure to visualise multiple possible intersections. This encourages new understandings of the backgrounds that have informed some of the characteristics and recurring themes of contemporary Chinese art—its ambitiously large scale, its radicalism, its legacy of cultural revolution and individual history, its responsiveness to consumerism and urbanisation, and its reinvention of tradition.

Isabella Tam

Associate Curator, Visual Art


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