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February 6–8, 2020, at The University of Chicago

Art and Materiality Symposium

Presented in conjunction with the opening weekend of The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, this scholarly symposium used the lens of materiality to investigate topics central to the development and study of contemporary art in China.

Through panels and presentations, an international array of eighteen scholars and artists built on the foundation of The Allure of Matter, connecting the concept of materiality to Chinese art historically, and to contemporary art globally. The symposium opened with a keynote by esteemed art historian and exhibition co-curator Wu Hung. The first part of the symposium examined traditional materials in Chinese art—including pigments used in painting, glass, silk, and paper. The second part analyzed how new and often unconventional materials have impacted contemporary art practices across the globe.


Published in fall 2021, the book The Allure of Matter: Materiality Across Chinese Art builds upon scholarship originally presented at the Art and Materiality Symposium.


Orianna Cacchione • Anne Feng • Yuhang Li • Nancy P. Lin • Wei-Cheng Lin • Elizabeth Mangini • Christine Mehring • Sara A. Moy • Quincy Ngan • Rachel Rivenc • Catherine Stuer • Reiko Tomii • Katherine Tsiang • Niko Vicario • Eugene Wang  • Wu Hung • Yusen Yu


Schedule updated as of February 3, 2020

Thursday, February 6, 5 pm

Logan Center for the Arts
915 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637


Keynote Address by Wu Hung

“Material is the Message: Exploring an Overlooked Aspect of Contemporary Chinese Art”
Wu Hung, University of Chicago

The Art and Materiality symposium opens with the keynote at the US-China Forum by The Allure of Matter co-curator Wu Hung.

Friday, February 7, 9:30 am–4:30 pm

Logan Center for the Arts
915 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637


Part I: The Role of Materials in Premodern Chinese Art

9:30 am
Welcome remarks

10:00–11:00 am
Medieval Buddhist Visions and Materials

“Luminescent Visions: Transparency and Transformation in Medieval China”
Anne Feng, Boston University

“Materiality of Buddhist Icons in Medieval China”
Wei-Cheng Lin, University of Chicago

11:15 am–12:15 pm
Transformative Materials

“Transformative Properties of Smoke and Ash in Chinese Traditional Arts”
Katherine Tsiang, University of Chicago

“Burning One’s Way into Heaven: Paper, Fire and Ritual Mediation in Cixi’s Funeral Practice”
Yuhang Li, University of Wisconsin

12:15–1:45 pm
Morning Discussion and Lunch Break

1:45–2:45 pm
Materials of Art Production

“The Materiality of Indigo Blue in Two Fifteenth-century Chinese Paintings Depicting Gossypium and Mulberry”
Quincy Ngan, Yale University

“Carved Pictorial Lacquer: 18th Century Craftsmanship and Related Writing”
Catherine Stuer, Denison University

3:00–4:00 pm
Material and Beyond

“Gold Sprinkled: Chinese Paper and Persian Book Arts during the Fifteenth Century”
Yusen Yu, University of Oxford

“How to Materialize Voice? Toward a Theory of Sonic Painting”
Eugene Wang, Harvard University

4:00–4:30 pm
Afternoon Discussion and Closing Remarks

Saturday, February 8, 10 am–4:30 pm

Logan Center for the Arts
915 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637


Part II: Materiality in Global Contemporary Art

10:00 am
Welcome remarks

10:30–11:30 am
Material as Method: Art Historical Narratives

“German Material Matters: Beuys and Vostell”
Christine Mehring, University of Chicago

“The Assault of Representational Painting: New Materials and the ’85 New Wave Movement in Post-Mao China”
Orianna Cacchione, University of Chicago

11:45 am–12:45 pm
Conservation Issues in Material Art

“Laws of Entropy – Materials and Process in the Art of Cai Guo-Qiang”
Rachel Rivenc, Getty Research Institute

A Race Against Time: Experiencing Gu Dexin
Sara Moy, Independent Conservator

12:45–2:15 pm
Morning Discussion and Lunch Break

2:15–3:45 pm
Global Perspectives: Reinterpretations and Currents of Exchange

“Materiality of the Immaterial: Information Made Physical in 1960s Japan”
Reiko Tomii, Independent Scholar

“More Than a Hardware Shop Moment: Arte povera in Turin”
Elizabeth Mangini, California College of the Arts

“Economy of Means”
Niko Vicario, Amherst College

4:00–4:30 pm
Afternoon Discussion and Closing Remarks

Saturday, February 8, 3–7 pm

Smart Museum of Art
5550 S. Greenwood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
Wrightwood 659
659 W. Wrightwood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614


Opening Celebration: The Allure of Matter

Following the symposium, celebrate The Allure of Matter with an opening-weekend reception happening simultaneously at the Smart Museum of Art and Wrightwood 659.


This symposium is presented by the Smart Museum of Art together with the Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. The keynote address is presented in collaboration with the fifth annual US-China Forum organized by UChicago Global, UChicago Arts, and the Smart Museum of Art.

Principal support for the symposium has been provided by Alphawood Foundation Chicago. Additional support is provided by The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation and The Adelyn Russell Bogert Fund of the Franke Institute for the Humanities. The symposium is co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago with generous support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The US-China Forum is sponsored by the China-United States Exchange Foundation.