The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China

20 February 2020


From gunpowder to human hair, and silk to cigarettes, contemporary artists working in China have experimented with various materials, transforming seemingly everyday objects into large-scale artworks. The Allure of Matter showcases these material transformations and explorations for the first time.

Co-presented in Chicago by Wrightwood 659 and the Smart Museum of Art from February 7th until May 3rd, The Allure of Matter is an exhibit so expansive it takes up the full gallery footprint of both institutions. At the Smart Museum are 24 works by 16 artists, while at Wrightwood 659, 21 works by 14 artists are displayed. To fully experience the exhibition, guests are encouraged to visit both locations. Remarkably, the Chicago-premier of The Allure of Matter expands upon the exhibit’s original debut in spring of 2019 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with nine additional artworks being shown only in Chicago.

The exhibit features monumental works from artists including Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Chen Zhen and Gu Dexin. Each artist has cultivated a uniquely intimate relationship with their materials, establishing a framework of interpretation revolving around materiality, with an incredible, expansive range of media.The exhibit is the first to collectively display works from the past four decades in which artists consciously utilize material as a mode of expression, and to explore how this trend manifested and continues to manifest in recent history. 

Learn more about the exhibit and plan your visit on the Smart Museum of Art website, or the Wrightwood 659 website.