Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art in Focus at BAM/PFA
In mahjong, the centuries-old Chinese game enjoyed worldwide, players rely on rules and chance as they collect matching sets of tiles. The skill lies in recognizing the best opportunities for making high-scoring combinations. It is an apt title for Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, the new exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, on view from September 10, 2008, through January 4, 2009. Like the game, Mahjong presents a dazzling combination of diverse works that, when combined, create new and stimulating opportunities to see and appreciate contemporary Chinese art.
The exhibition, which features 141 works by 96 artists and occupies nine of the museum’s ten galleries, is drawn from the collection of Uli Sigg, the former ambassador from Switzerland to China and one of the world’s leading collectors of Chinese art. Sigg’s long and close ties to China have enabled him to build a collection unrivaled in quality, scope, and size. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, video works, and installations spanning four decades. The exhibition is coordinated at BAM/PFA by Julia M. White, senior curator of Asian art, and is co-curated by White and Lucinda Barnes, chief curator and director of programs and collections.
As a whole, Mahjong offers a remarkable window onto the artistic, social, and economic ferment that have characterized China since the 1970s. Beginning with socialist realism, the exhibition goes on to showcase the avant-garde movements of the 1980s and early 1990s, and highlights works by the generation of artists who emerged in the wake of the social and political reforms of the past ten years. Mao, the Cultural Revolution, consumerism, the urban/rural divide, and the tensions between the individual and society are just a few of the issues animating the work on display.
In connection with this landmark exhibition, the Institute of East Asian Studies and Center for Chinese Studies are collaborating with BAM/PFA on a range of public programs highlighting the diversity of contemporary China and its art. PFA will present films by Ning Ying and Jia Zhangke alongside the works from the Sigg Collection, and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whose work is included in the exhibition, is in residence at UC Berkeley during the fall semester. A series of public conversations and a daylong symposium on women artists round out the offerings.
On September 22 at 4 p.m., Wen-hsin Yeh will be in conversation with Uli Sigg at the Institute for East Asian Studies, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor. Yeh, a leading authority on twentieth-century Chinese history, is a professor of history at UC Berkeley and the director of its Institute of East Asian Studies.
For more information on the Mahjong exhibition and related programs, see http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/exhibition/mahjong.