Close-up on a golden, wrinkly, sphere-shaped object encased in yellowish raw silk. The silk is covered in miniscule black dots.

A Focus on Materiality in Contemporary Chinese Art

What is materiality, and why is it important? How has the materiality of art shifted across time and culture?

All art is made up of materials. To focus on the materiality of an artwork, however, is to emphasise the material qualities that it consists of. In contemporary art, materials are often the foundation of the work; not just used as a tool to convey an idea or emotion but embodying the subject matter of the work itself. Materials can evoke social class and cultural traditions, and can even be intangible and abstract, as is the case with sound—and the removal of it.

Below, Pi Li, Sigg Senior Curator, Visual Art, analyses the materiality of three works in the Sigg Prize 2019 Exhibition: from bamboo scaffolding, to sound, to raw silk.


Clip from a soundless monochrome film. A man on crutches walks in front of a protest crowd holding a large banner. The man and the crowd appear to be yelling slogans.

The Story of Chi Xiaoning and His Smuggled Camera

This is a story about underground film-making, radical art, and censorship. In 1979, Chi Xiaoning created his Film of Star Group Activities of 1979. It is the only known video documenting the radical activities of the Stars Group, an avant-garde group of artists from China who championed individuality and freedom of expression. The only copy of the footage is in the M+ Collections.

Below, film-maker Andy Cohen, whose 2020 film Beijing Spring showcases portions of the footage, tells the story behind Chi Xiaoning’s daring film-making during a period that was still subject to severe censorship in favour of official propaganda art. Beijing Spring will be showcased as part of an upcoming M+ Screenings programme.


A barefoot man dressed in the brown robes of a Franciscan monk lies down on a cobblestone street. He is rolling himself along the street, wrapping himself in a thick paper rope. He is surrounded by a watching crowd of people. He holds his hood to cover his head.

A Look at Globalisation and Language in Contemporary Chinese Art

The Sigg Prize 2019 Exhibition is focused on artists born or working in a specific geographic region: that of Greater China. However, the exhibition is filled with languages and cultural particularities from beyond this region, such as Japanese, Korean, Italian, and English.

Below, Pi Li, Sigg Senior Curator, Visual Art, shares his thoughts on whether this is part of a larger trend that reflects a new globalised generation of Chinese artists. He looks at how three of the artists in the exhibition incorporate different languages: Shen Xin, Tao Hui, and Lin Yilin.


A door in a wall next to a large sign. The sign contains the exhibition title ‘Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice’ and the dates ‘11 May–24 Nov 2019’ in both English and traditional Chinese.

Hong Kong Venice Biennale Interns on Their Most Memorable Moments

What’s it like to greet thousands of international visitors to the Hong Kong exhibition at the Venice Biennale?

The Hong Kong exhibition at the 58th Venice Biennale, Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice, co-presented by M+ and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, drew thousands of visitors before wrapping up in November 2019. Who spoke to those visitors? Eight interns who each spent six weeks in Venice giving tours and greeting visitors in the gallery.

After the exhibition ended, we asked each intern: What was the most memorable interaction you had at the gallery? What question were you asked the most? Here are their answers.