In celebration of UCCA’s fifteenth university, the museum is proud to present an exhibition documenting its institutional history. Through the lens of twelve key words, the exhibition showcases the decade and a half of Chinese contemporary art that UCCA has both witnessed and actively worked to support, alongside the museum’s explorations in other cultural fields. The exhibition is jointly curated by virtually all of the museum’s departments, a first in UCCA’s history.
On the occasion of UCCA’s fifteenth anniversary, the museum has organized a series of celebratory exhibitions and other special events. From November 4 to November 27, 2022, UCCA presents “Memory and Imagination: UCCA at Fifteen,” which offers a comprehensive overview of the institution’s history and development. The exhibition is organized according to twelve different key words and concepts, each delineating a different thread to follow through UCCA’s history. The exhibition uses a wealth of archival materials to map out pivotal moments in UCCA’s development as China’s leading institution of contemporary art, as well as document its pioneering exhibitions, public programs, research initiatives, interdisciplinary collaborations, and more. “Memory and Imagination” invites art lovers, researchers, and UCCA supporters from all walks of life to return to the space of the museum and revisit the vast changes to China’s contemporary art ecology that UCCA has both borne witness to and actively worked to bring about. We humbly hope that this record of UCCA’s transformation and growth may serve as a reference point for the future development of art museums in China. Almost every department at UCCA worked together in close collaboration to prepare the exhibition, marking the first time the entirety of the institution has worked together to curate a show.
Much has changed in the fifteen years since UCCA’s founding. In this time, China’s privately run art museums have contended with sweeping social transformations at home, and the impact of unforeseen global events abroad. All the while, UCCA has sought ways to break out of traditional museum models, endeavoring to innovate and bring the best of contemporary art and culture from around the world to China, while also encouraging the continued growth of Chinese contemporary art and drawing it into global artistic dialogue. When UCCA opened in 2007, Beijing had not yet hosted the Summer Olympics; 798 Art District was known to a sliver of cultural cognoscenti but not the city’s general public. Since then, UCCA has consolidated itself as an institution deeply rooted in the Chinese context yet committed to a global vision and international standards, a museum that has grown hand-in-hand with Chinese contemporary art while also working to ensure its sustainable development.
Rather than mapping out the institution’s history in a linear manner, “Memory and Imagination” uses twelve sections linked to twelve key words—“Cluster,” “Design,” “Focus,” “Horizons,” “New Voices,” “Publishing,” “Connections,” “Faces,” “Growing,” “Experimentation,” “Store,” and “Future”— to retrace the course of the past fifteen years. Drawing upon documentation from a wide range of media, these sections tell the story of UCCA’s gradual emergence as China’s leading institution of contemporary art, and its steadfast commitment to its founding mission and values in the face of structural changes and other challenges.
Of these sections, “Cluster” focuses on the architecture of UCCA’s museums, charting the institution’s expansion into a veritable museum network with locations spread across three cities, from the architectural history and contemporary renovations of UCCA’s Beijing museum, to the innovative designs of its Shanghai and Beidaihe spaces; “Design” surveys multiple generations of UCCA’s logo and visual systems, speaking to the museum’s constant efforts to upgrade its visual identity and create an ever-more user-friendly, welcoming environment; “Focus” highlights a number of key UCCA exhibitions which have demarcated milestones and seminal movements in Chinese contemporary art, emphasizing a central goal of UCCA’s curatorial ethos: to provide basis from which to understand the broader ecology of contemporary art in China; “Horizons” turns to UCCA’s efforts fostering artistic exchange between China and the world through the dual approach of bringing work by leading international artists to the country and organizing exhibitions overseas introducing Chinese artists to the international arena; and “New Voices” gathers together material on the many UCCA exhibitions and programs dedicated to young artists, underscoring the institution’s commitment to searching out and encouraging the growth of new artistic practices.
Looking at the museum’s activities beyond exhibitions per se, “Connections” examines how, through its role as the site for all manner of public programs, UCCA serves as a junction between art and the broader community, and works to build an inclusive, diverse, and open platform for social and cultural exchange; “Publishing” browses through the more than 80 exhibition catalogues that UCCA has published since its founding. Created according to rigorous international standards, these publications not only expand the academic scope of exhibitions, but also provide an avenue for emerging scholars and critics to contribute to the discourses of contemporary art; and “Faces” zooms in on one of the most important parts of UCCA: the people who have grown alongside the institution. Their experiences may help guide us to rediscover the fifteen-year dialogue between art and the public that has occurred in our spaces.
Moving beyond the museum’s walls, “Experimentation” directs our attention towards the interdisciplinary collaborations that UCCA has conducted together with other institutions, prominent brands, and local governments since its founding (primarily under the rubric of UCCA Lab since 2019). The section sheds light on how the museum has continually explored new ways of narrowing the distance between art and the public; “Store” explains how, as the first museum store in China to produce high quality artist editions, UCCA Store has grown in parallel with hundreds of Chinese designers, producing unique design objects and limited edition artworks that have brought the beauty and charm of art deeper into lives of millions of visitors; “Growth” shares how art education has enabled UCCA to contribute to society as a public-facing art institution, both in terms of the museum’s long running children’s art classes, and UCCA Foundation’s charity art education initiatives; and finally, the “Future” section collects messages sent to the museum by friends and collaborators from different fields over the years, and invites visitors to note down their hopes for the future of the museum. We look forward to reading your questions for the museum and thoughts about how art may further connect with daily life as we join our voices together to welcome an unknown future.
Support and Sponsorship
Exclusive wall solutions support is provided by Dulux and Genelec contributed exclusive audio equipment and technical support. Gratitude to the members of UCCA Foundation Council, International Circle, and Young Associates, as well as Lead Partner Aranya, Lead Art Book Partner DIOR, Presenting Partners Bloomberg, Voyage Group, and Yinyi Biotech, and Supporting Partners Barco, Dulux, and Genelec for their generous support.
During the exhibition, UCCA’s Public Practice department will present a series of public events related to the museum's history, including discussions and workshops. These activities feature scholars, artists, and other cultural practitioners who have been part of UCCA’s journey over the years. Mixing together the perspectives of insiders and outsiders, participants at these events will share their recollections and discuss the story of UCCA from its early days up until the present.
For its fifteenth anniversary, UCCA will produce a commemorative publication documenting the museum’s history. The book will draw upon a vast collection of archival materials and images, presenting key exhibitions and events from the Center’s founding in 2007 to today. It will also include a selection of texts by artists, curators, scholars, and other supporters, who will share their experiences and reflect on UCCA’s contribution to the development of Chinese contemporary art.
During the exhibition period, UCCA Store is launching a series of products celebrating the museum’s fifteenth anniversary. Available in both UCCA Store's online and physical outlets, the merchandise is inspired by UCCA’s logo and the iconic architecture of UCCA Beijing, and condenses the museum’s fifteen years of growth and transformation into a streamlined, instantly-recognizable outline.