While in Den Bosch visiting Noordbrabants Museum, I came across “A Chinese Journey : The Sigg Collection”, a temporary exhibition at Noorbrabants Museum. It is a modern contemporary Chinese art collection comprises of works from the Sigg Collection. (Nothing to do with Sigg aluminum water bottles)
Uli Sigg born in 1946, is a lawyer, a journalist, a businessman, an art collector and was a Swiss ambassador to China, North Korea and Mongolia from 1995 -1998. In order to better understand China and its culture, Sigg systematically collects contemporary Chinese art when no one does. Sigg became the largest private collector of contemporary Chinese art in the world, encompassing no fewer than 2400 works by some 400 artists dating from 1970 to present day.
“A Chinese Journey : The Sigg Collection” shows the development, emergence and evolution of Chinese contemporary art since the end of the Cultural Revolution (strict social and political controls). During the Maoist era (1949-1976), the state controlled all artistic production and expositions.
There are three key themes in this exhibition; Chinese tradition, spirituality and the modern- day socio-political situation in China. The many paintings, sculptures, photos and video installations on display are of the Chinese artists’ expression on China’s past and modern times.
For instance, the enormous artwork of He Xiangyu’s life-size deflated T34 tank model made entirely from Italian leather is China’s armed forces principal tank. It was the same model used during the student protests of 1989 where several hundred demonstrators were killed trying to block the military’s advance towards Tiananmen Square.
Another controversial art piece is the superstructure known as ‘Don’t Touch!’ by Liu Wei. It is made of ox hide shaped as a model of the Potala Palace in Tibet. The region of Tibet has been argued over by Tibetans and China for more than a century.
A symbolic modern day China is reflected on one of the acrylic on canvas painting entitled China Lake C (2015) by Zhao Bandi. The scenario of festively clad group standing strangely in knee deep muddy water setting is supposed to represent the good fortune, beauty and riches that can be found in the country nowadays, but it is not safe in reality.
Growing up in Asia, I learned about political repression and the relative freedom in China. The traditional Chinese art forms celebrated were basically calligraphy and ink-painting. The artworks in this exhibition present the historical development of contemporary art in China as a whole. This is different and new! A grand selection worth your time especially for art lovers.
A Chinese Journey : The Sigg Collection is on display at Noorbrabants Museum’s exhibition wing from 17 March – 8 July 2018, spreading over 5 halls. It consists of fifty or so key pieces created between 2004 and 2017 by 30 artists including Feng Mengbo, Shao Fan and Ai Weiwei.
Do not miss the small room right after the entrance gate showcasing ‘Ten Mayors on the Grassland’. It is a group of middle-aged-men sculptures posing naked with expressionless faces.
An audio tour for this exhibition is available at the ticket desk for an additional €2.50 (in Dutch and English). You can also download ‘Podcatcher audio guide’ app on the Appstore or Google Play for free instead. Don’t forget to bring your own headset!