Exhibition of works by more than ninety artists, scheduled for fall 2008, is the largest and most comprehensive collection of contemporary Chinese art ever shown in the U.S.
Berkeley, CA, October 29, 2007 - The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) announces a major exhibition of contemporary Chinese art that will open at the museum in fall 2008. Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection is drawn from the collection of Uli Sigg, a Swiss collector whose close links with China since the late 1970s have enabled him to build a collection that is unrivaled in quality, scope, and size. The exhibition will feature a selection of approximately 120 works by 92 artists, including exceptional paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, video works, and installations spanning four decades.
Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection will open at BAM/PFA in September and run through December, 2008 (final exhibition dates will be announced in early 2008). Concurrent to the exhibition, the Pacific Film Archive will present a number of film series featuring feature-length films and shorts by Chinese filmmakers.
Mahjong surveys the development of contemporary art in China since the 1970s. Beginning with important Socialist Realist paintings from the period of the Cultural Revolution, the exhibition illustrates the avant-garde movements of the 1980s and early 1990s, and also includes works by a generation of artists who have emerged following China's social and political reforms of the past decade. All of the major developments in contemporary Chinese art are represented by pivotal works, some of which are now well known in the West. Artists featured in Mahjong include Liu Wei, Huang Yan, Ai Weiwei, Weng Fen, Yue Min Jun, Wang Du, Zhang Xiaogang, Xu Bing, and Zhang Huan, as well as a number of artists still largely unknown outside of China. As a whole, the exhibition provides audiences with an unparalleled opportunity to view China as a closed society in the 1970s and early 1980s, and to observe the changes in cultural expression that have occurred as Chinese society has become increasingly open.
In conjunction with the exhibition, BAM/PFA will be commissioning a new work that will be included in the exhibition, and hosting residencies by artists and filmmakers who will take part in a wide range of public programs and activities on the University of California, Berkeley campus.
The exhibition takes its name from the centuries-old Chinese game, enjoyed by millions worldwide. Relying on rules and chance, mahjong revolves around collecting matching sets of tiles; the skill lies in recognizing the best opportunities for making high-scoring combinations. The exhibition, like the game, is made up of groupings of works which, combined in different ways, create new and stimulating opportunities to view and appreciate contemporary Chinese art.
Mahjong is organized in twelve thematic sections that explore both the political and the social events and ideas that have shaped recent Chinese art, including the Cultural Revolution, consumerism, and the tensions between the individual and society. Sections explore particular artistic practices that are predominant, such as the body as medium, and calligraphy. Many works consciously address China's national identity and premodern history by adopting the techniques of traditional Chinese art and placing them in a new context, while other works parody Western art and its canon from a Chinese point of view. Also evident are the tensions between the socialist ideals that are still officially operative and the consumerism unleashed by capitalist reforms.
The Sigg Collection of contemporary Chinese art currently numbers more than 1,600 works by 200 artists. The collection was built with the intention of providing a comprehensive overview of this fertile era in China's recent cultural history, since no other such documentation existed-nor does it exist today. In addition to its scope, the Sigg Collection is further distinguished by the fact that nearly all of the works were acquired directly from the artists. Sigg's intention is that his collection, which represents an unparalleled cultural treasure, may ultimately return, in an appropriate form, to China.
“We are delighted to be presenting this very significant exhibition at BAM/PFA” says Lucinda Barnes, Chief Curator and Director of Programs and Collections. “Mahjong ideally complements both this institution's history as a leading center for exploring contemporary artistic and cultural practices, and UC Berkeley's position as a national leader in research relating to China.”
”My experience in China since the late seventies-first in the business world by establishing the first Joint Venture company between China and the West, and later in the diplomatic arena-has made me keenly aware of both the rapid changes in contemporary China, and that nothing was being done on an institutional level to preserve or document these developments in the artistic realm,” says collector Uli Sigg. “Therefore I determined early on in my collecting that my goal would be to collect as much for China as for myself. Someday when the conditions are right I am prepared to return this cultural legacy to the people of China.”
The exhibition at BAM/PFA will be accompanied by a full schedule of public and scholarly programs, including an ongoing series of lectures, interdisciplinary panel discussions, tours, and an artist-in-residence program, and a series featuring contemporary Chinese film at Pacific Film Archive.
Mahjong is being coordinated at BAM/PFA by Julia M. White, Senior Curator of Asian Art, and is co-curated by Julia White and Chief Curator and Director of Programs and Collections Lucinda Barnes.
The Pacific Film Archive will organize several discrete series in conjunction with Mahjong, showcasing the dynamic work made by mainland Chinese filmmakers working in the area of feature-length narratives, documentaries, animated shorts, and experimental films. The film component of the exhibition will offer audiences a wonderful opportunity to see how contemporary Chinese filmmakers have responded to the sweeping political and economic changes in their country and will demonstrate how such changes have allowed for a renaissance of artistic expression by film and video artists.
The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) aims to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through contemporary and historical art and film, engaging audiences from the campus, the Bay Area community, and beyond. BAM/PFA is one of the largest university art museums in the United States in both size and attendance, presenting fifteen art exhibitions and five hundred film programs each year. The museum's collection of more than 15,000 works includes exceptional examples of mid-twentieth-century painting, including important works by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, and Mark Rothko, as well as historical and contemporary Asian art, early American painting, Conceptual and contemporary international art, and California and Bay Area art. The PFA film and video collection now includes the largest group of Japanese films outside of Japan, as well as impressive holdings of Soviet silents, West Coast avant-garde cinema, seminal video art, rare animation, Central Asian productions, Eastern European cinema, and international classics.
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Additional support is provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Bernard Osher Foundation, Packard Humanities Institute, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Columbia Foundation, the Christensen Fund, and other private foundations and corporations, and our individual donors and members. Major endowment support has been provided by the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation and by George Gund III.
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