Manchester’s newly reopened The Whitworth has announced its next major exhibition is set to be the first UK show from the renowned M+ Sigg Collection.  The exhibition, Four Decades of Chinese Art, will bring together 80 significant works from leading contemporary Chinese artists including Ai Weiwei, Cao Fei and Zhang Peili

Four Decades of Chinese Art will examine the way in which art can question, challenge and stimulate, looking at artworks created and spanning events over a forty year period.  It will also look at the question of freedom of expression, freedom of art and the subversion of art, including an exploration of the ‘No Name Group’ and the events of Tianamen Square in 1989, before moving through to today’s vibrant art scene.

The Whitworth and M+ Sigg Collection curators have collaborated on this project to devise a unique show to enhance the new spaces of the redeveloped Whitworth and retain the core message of the M+ Sigg Collection.

The exhibition is set to include Family Tree (2000) by Zhang Huan, one of the most influential and provocative contemporary artists working day – a photographic work, which is the result of a single day’s performance involving nine calligraphy painters taking turns to write lyrics about the artist’s family history on his face.  Other works set to be featured include Weng Fen’s On the Wall series (2002), which captures China in the throes of rapid urbanisation in the early 2000s, a set of extraordinary photography presenting the personal transition that mirrors China’s own economic, political and social change.

At the same time, the Whitworth will exhibit Ai Weiwei’s Still Life installation (1995-2000), a mass display of thousands of Stone Age axe heads in an iconoclastic gesture made to offset the value and importance of the ancient object.  Other exhibition artists include Chi Xiaoning, Hai Bo and Lin Yilin.

Dr Maria Balshaw, Director of the Whitworth commented, “The M+ Sigg Collection is drawn from Swiss collector Uli Sigg’s unique collection that arose out of his realisation that the experimental contemporary art practices emerging across China were going undocumented.  It is now universally recognised as the largest, most comprehensive and important historical ‘document’ of the culturally dynamic period of Chinese history between the 1970s to present day.  It will form the backbone of the new M+ museum in Hong Kong, due to open in 2017.  We are honoured and delighted to be the only UK gallery to show these works.”

Four Decades of Chinese Art will be exhibited at The Whitworth from 1 July to 20 September 2015.

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image – Family Tree (2000) by Zhang Huan.  Image courtesy of the artist.