As we celebrate Chinese New Year and Manchester's Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art celebrates its 30 year anniversary, they contribute to our blog:
Throughout Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA)’s
history it has sustained a commitment to representing Chinese arts
and culture in the UK. Today it is the UK’s leading organisation for the
promotion of Chinese contemporary art, producing an internationally renowned
artistic programme and developing a reputation as a centre for research.
The organisation began in 1986 when Hong Kong artist Amy Lai
organised Chinese View ‘86, the
first Chinese festival in Manchester, with the intention of providing a
platform for the Chinese artistic community and to develop the positive
identity of Chinese culture in Britain. One year later the Chinese Arts Centre
opened its doors on Charlotte Street in Manchester’s Chinatown as a
registered charity with government funding, founded with the objective of
advancing the education of the public in contemporary Chinese arts and culture.
The first large-scale contemporary art exhibition was Beyond the Chinese Takeaway in 1992, which represented the
experiences of second and third generation British Chinese artists.
In 1996, led by CEO Sarah Champion (now MP for Rotherham).
Chinese Arts Centre found a new venue on Edge Street in Manchester’s
Northern Quarter. The move signalled the centre’s shift to becoming a
contemporary arts venue, with improved gallery spaces and facilities.
The renewed focus of the artistic programme was to make
Chinese art and culture accessible to Manchester’s arts audiences, avoiding
associations with out-dated and overly traditional representations of
Chinese culture and folklore. The departure from Manchester’s China Town could
be seen as symbolic of a broader cultural shift in perceptions of the British
Chinese community during this period and the desire to encourage mainstream
audiences to engage with Chinese arts.
In the summer of 1999 a devastating fire destroyed the Edge
Street building, temporarily depriving Chinese Arts Centre of its venue;
however the building was quickly restored.
Chinese Arts Centre changed venue again in 2003 to the current
RIBA award-winning building location on Thomas Street; a move funded by an Arts
Council England Lottery grant. The new purpose built facilities included a
Gallery, unique artist-in-residence studio, library and resource space,
education and events suite and teashop (now Gallery 2).
Chinese Arts Centre continued to extend its work to a
national level, acting as an agency for Chinese arts in Britain and inviting
collaborations with other organisations. Gradually it built up a network of Chinese artists from across
the country, enhancing the visibility of the Chinese artistic community. The
newly built Residency studio allowed us to develop a unique offer of support
for artists, who could explore their artistic practice through living and
working in the building. professional development of emerging East Asian
When Curator Sally Lai took on the role of Director in 2008
she was tasked with re-evaluating the work of the centre to adapt and respond
to changes in the political climate. Under her directorship the centre
began to refocus its aims to respond to a changing global dynamic, opening
up opportunities internationally with organisations and artists across East
Asia – evolving to become an international agency for Chinese contemporary art.
This preceded the change of name from Chinese Arts Centre to
Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in November 2013. The
re-brand affirmed the organisation’s position as a future-facing
organisation responding to China’s growing cultural and economic influence. Overseen
by interim Director Sarah Fisher, 2013 also saw the formation of a
partnership with the University of Salford to develop a unique collection
of Chinese Contemporary Art. This partnership signposted our broader
research objectives which continues to develop through an online ‘Chinese
Contemporary Research Network’, partnerships with higher education
institutions, publications, symposia and an archive and library resource.
In 2014 CFCCA became a major partner in the third Asia
Triennial Manchester, curating Harmonious
Society, the largest exhibition of contemporary Chinese art in the UK to
date. Harmonious Society was a
significant achievement for CFCCA, negotiating international collaborations to
bring over 30 artists to 6 Manchester venues.
Zoe Dunbar took the helm as CFCCA’s new permanent Director
at the end of 2014, and continues to develop the role of CFCCA as leading the
UK in exploring the Chinese Century through contemporary art.
In 2016 CFCCA commemorates its 30th
anniversary with a programme of events and exhibitions spanning 6
months featuring prestigious artists, curators and academics who have each
previously contributed to the organisation at various stages of its 30 year
history. This ambitious programme launched on 4 February 2016 to coincide with
Chinese New Year.
To find out more about CFCCA’s 30 Year anniversary programme
Follow them on Twitter @CFCCA_UK or Facebook www.facebook.com/Centre-for-Chinese-Contemporary-Art
(top/left) Chinese View '86 logo.
(middle/right) Beyond The Chinese Takeaway poster.
(middle/left) Chinese Arts Centre, Edge Street, circa 1998.
(bottom/left) CFCCA exterior by Arthur Siuksta (2015).