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M+ restages historic exhibition 'Canton Express' following major donation by collector Guan Yi
Chan ShaoXiong, Figure Anti-Terrorism. Carved wooden chess pieces, furniture, two-channel video (colour, sound) M+, Hong Kong. Gift of Guan Yi, 2013 © Chen Shaoxiong.

HONG KONG.- M+, the new museum of visual culture in Hong Kong's West Kowloon Cultural District, announces Canton Express: Art of the Pearl River Delta (Canton Express), an exhibition dedicated to restaging one of the most historically and artistically important exhibitions of contemporary art from the Pearl River Delta region. Canton Express runs from 23 June to 10 September 2017.

Originally part of the historic exhibition Zone of Urgency curated by Hou Hanru in the Arsenale section of the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003, this exhibition is considered a major showcase of works by artists and non-profit cultural institutions active in the Pearl River Delta since the end of the 20th Century. Highlighting the impacts on the cultural landscape of the Pearl River Delta, this initial display emphasised the dynamic and unique conceptual contemporary art practices towards the everyday life from that that area, which were in stark contrast to previous interpretations of Chinese contemporary art that placed emphasis on realism, figurative styles and various political dimensions.

A collaborative project, the exhibition presented works from 14 artists and independent art spaces which presented their views via a wide range of media, from visual art and film to publication, with aims to weave a story surrounding the unprecedented process of urbanisation since the 1990s.

As the fourth exhibition to be held at the M+ Pavilion, a permanent space in the West Kowloon Cultural District that will host the museum's exhibitions until the opening in late 2019, Canton Express demonstrates the extensive research, conservation efforts and the museum's commitment in preserving contemporary artwork produced for a specific condition, unfolding the fascinating stories on communities and support behind the original exhibition. This exhibition also traces back to the rich cultural connections between Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong highlighting the chronology and present to viewers the results from this research, complemented by exclusive insights into the back of house and conservation methods. This exhibition celebrates the donation by influential Chinese collector Guan Yi in 2013, emphasising the unique role of collectors and the art community within the realisation of the original exhibition.

Featuring a wide range of works – including photography, sculpture, video, installation and archival materials, the restaging of this exhibition enhances these far-sighted experimentations on shaping a unique artistic language from this region. The 2017 presentation includes works by Chen Shaoxiong, Duan Jianyu, Feng Qianyu, Jiang Zhi, Jin Jiangbo, Liang Juhui, Libreria Borges Bookshop (Chen Tong and Lu Yi), Lin Yilin, Liu Heng, U-theque Organisation (Ou Ning and Cao Fei), Vitamin Creative Space, Xu Tan, Yang Yong, and Zheng Guogu.

The Guan Yi donation to M+ consists of 37 works that comprises the entire exhibition of Canton Express, and spans 26 years (from 1979 to 2005). In addition to the Canton Express project, the donation also includes works by artists Chen Wenbo, Duan Jianyu, Gu Dexin, Huang Rui, Huang Yongping, the New Measurement Group, Shen Yuan, Wang Guangyi, Wang Luyan, Wang Yin, Wu Shanzhuan, Xu Zhen, Yan Lei, Zhang Peili and Zhou Tiehai.

"The generous donation by Guan Yi manifested great trust and respect from the collection on M+'s capability and vision in preserving and showcasing the artwork," said Ms Suhanya Raffel, Executive Director of M+. "Canton Express demonstrates the museum's commitment to the institution's donors, and celebrates the important role of collectors in the realization and the preservation of art."

"Canton Exrpess is an important project in two ways: it demonstrates the uniqueness of the artistic language that emerged in southern China, near where we are located, in Hong Kong; it also exemplifies how M+ as a contemporary museum plays a vital role within the ecology of artmaking through its research capabilities and institutional expertise," said Mr Doryun Chong, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of M+.

"People often believe that the contemporary is too recent to require any deliberate maintenance. During the reinstallation of Canton Express, however, it made one realize the immediate need for documentation and conservation, because the 'contemporary' turns into the 'past' in the blink of an eye," said Dr Pi Li, Sigg Senior Curator of M+. "It is our hope that this exhibition not only restages an important moment in the development of contemporary art, but also serves as a means by which to reflect and act upon these concerns."

"It is my wish to see the concept of the Pearl River Delta and its art being taken forward by one of the best museums in the region," said Guan Yi, collector. "M+ and the historically significant work seem to be the perfect match, and for the professional team at the museum to restage this exhibition, presents the ideal approach in my opinion. I look forward to the seeing the project realised again in Hong Kong, this time with the international curatorial vision of M+."

The curatorial team consists of Dr Pi Li, Sigg Senior Curator of M+, Visual Art with Isabella Tam and Ethan Cheng, Assistant Curators, Visual Art, M+.

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