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A series of dynamic, free programs throughout the month of February will officially launch the Chicago presentation of The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, a massive new exhibition which examines the materiality of contemporary art from China. The exhibition takes up the full gallery footprint of two Chicago institutions: the Smart Museum of Art (5550 S. Greenwood Avenue) and Wrightwood 659 (659 W. Wrightwood Avenue), February 7–May 3, 2020. 

​Opening week highlights include the US-China Forum 2020: The Matter of Art, a daylong event presented by the University of Chicago that explores how China and the United States intersect, interact, and overlap through the arts, Feb. 6; a scholarly symposium that uses the lens of materiality to investigate topics central to the development and study of contemporary art in China, Feb. 6–8; plus festive opening celebrations happening simultaneously at both venues, Saturday afternoon, Feb. 8.  

Featured programs in February include “US-China Forum 2020: THe Matter of Art” on Thursday, February 6 at 9:30 a.m. at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago (915 E. 60th Street).

The one-day program explores how China and the United States intersect, interact and overlap through the arts. It features in-depth conversations between renowned Chinese artists and distinguished UChicago faculty members, as well as artistic performances. Wu Hung (Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History, Director of the Center for the Art of East Asia, and co-curator of The Allure of Matter) will deliver the keynote address. 

​Also on the agenda, Symposium: Art and Materiality, February 6-8 at Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago. This scholarly symposium uses the lens of materiality to investigate topics central to the development and study of art around the world. Through panels and presentations, an international array of scholars and artists build on the exhibition’s foundation, connecting the concept of materiality to Chinese art historically, and to contemporary art globally. 

​And for families, Family Day: Pantyhose Puppets, presented Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Avenue, Chicago offers a drop-in puppet-making workshop, inspired by the work of The Allure of Matter artist Ma Qiusha. Participants are invited to “stretch” their imagination while using nylons to make fantastical puppets. This family-friendly event also features a Pantyhose Puppet Show.  Art-making supplies and other materials are provided. Family programs are best for kids 4–12, but all ages are welcomed! Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. A wealth of programming awaits visitors and guests of the exhibition. 

The Allure of Matter features two- and three-dimensional works made from a range of unique and humble materials, like melted plastic, paper-thin porcelain and 300,000 iron nails. These works, many monumental in scale, explore how conscious material choice has become a symbol of expression for a number of leading Chinese contemporary artists working over the last four decades. The artists in the exhibition range from those in the early stages of their careers, including He Xiangyu, Hu Xiaoyuan, and Ma Qiusha, to such internationally celebrated practitioners as Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Lin Tianmiao, Xu Bing, and Yin Xiuzhen. The Allure of Matter is divided into two unique halves at the Smart Museum (26 works by 16 artists) and Wrightwood 659 (23 works by 14 artists). To fully experience the exhibition, guests are encouraged to visit both locations. 

​The exhibition is curated by Wu Hung, Smart Museum Adjunct Curator, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History, and Director of the Center for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago, with Orianna Cacchione, Smart Museum Curator of Global Contemporary Art.

The Allure of Matter is co-organized by the Smart Museum of Art with Wrightwood 659 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Peabody Essex Museum. The Smart Museum’s presentation of The Allure of Matter is made possible by support from Alphawood Foundation Chicago. Support for the exhibition and its catalogue has been provided by principal sponsors the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and by Lorna Ferguson and Terry Clark. Additional support has been provided by the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation and the Museum’s SmartPartners. Following its debut at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (June 2, 2019–January 5, 2020) and this Chicago engagement, a national tour of The Allure of Matter continues at Seattle Art Museum (June 25–September 13, 2020) and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts (November 14, 2020–February 21, 2021). The national tour of this exhibition is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

​For more information on programming visit theallureofmatter.org.

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Smart Museum and Wrightwood 659 Offer Dual Presentation of The Allure of Matter

Exhibition view of The Allure of Matter in dual presentation at Smart Museum of Art and Wrightwood 659 (photo courtesy of the Smart Museum of Art).

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