The Allure of Matter: Material Art From China

Opening: Saturday, Feb 8, 2020 3 – 7 pm
Saturday, Feb 8 – May 3, 2020

The University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood
Chicago, IL 60637

Virtual exhibition on view here


The Allure of Matter is the first exhibition partnership between the Smart Museum and Wrightwood 659. Too large for a single venue, the exhibition takes up the full gallery footprint of both institutions. It opens twenty years after the Smart Museum’s first contemporary Chinese art project with exhibition co-curator and University of Chicago professor Wu Hung.

Since the 1980s, Chinese contemporary artists have cultivated intimate relationships with their materials, establishing a framework of interpretation revolving around materiality. Their media range from the commonplace to the unconventional, the natural to the synthetic, the elemental to the composite: from plastic, water, and wood, to hair, gunpowder, and Coca-Cola.

Artists continue to explore and develop this creative mode, with some devoting decades of their practice to experiments with a single material. For the first time, The Allure of Matter brings together works from the past four decades in which conscious material choice has become a symbol of the artists’ expression, representing this unique trend throughout recent history. 

The exhibition features 45 monumental works that are complementary in form, material, and visual effect. 


Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Chen Zhen, Gu Dexin, gu wenda, He Xiangyu, Hu Xiaoyuan, Huang Yong Ping, Jin Shan, Liang Shaoji, Lin Tianmiao, Liu Jianhua, Liu Wei, Ma Qiusha, Shi Hui, Song Dong, Sui Jianguo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Wang Jin, Xu Bing, Yin Xiuzhen, Zhan Wang, Zhang Huan, Zhang Yu, and Zhu Jinshi.


Image: Zhu Jinshi, Wave of Materials, 2007, Xuan paper, cotton thread, bamboo, and stones. Installation view, Tokyo Gallery, Beijing, 2007. Gift of Zhu Jinshi and Pearl Lam Galleries in honor of Wu Hung, jointly acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. Installation view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo: © Museum Associates/LACMA.