Philanthropist and collector Che Xuanqiao is the founder of Macalline Art Center, a non-profit arts organisation devoted to fostering experimental art. The Center aims to support artists to realise projects that might not otherwise find room to breathe in the established structures of the contemporary art world.
The Center's main physical space—based in a 900 square metre, two storey building—opened in January 2022 in Beijing's 798 Art Zone. Alongside this, the Center also boasts a smaller special project space in Shanghai, The Cloister, housed in The Cloisters Apartments on West Fuxing Road.
With a family history in design and innovation—her father is behind one of China's largest home and furniture companies Red Star Macalline Group Corp. Ltd—the arts patron also founded THE SHOUTER brand, which regularly collaborates with Chinese artists.
Che Xuanqiao's stepped up her interest in contemporary art following her involvement in M Home: Living in Space co-presented in Beijing by RedStar Macalline and UCCA Center for Contemporary Art. Opening in 2014 at UCCA, the project explored the notion of 'home' through works by 12 artists from around the world, including Yoshitomo Nara, Lin Tianmiao, Tobias Rehberger and Do Ho Suh.
'I find art fascinating. I'm drawn to its ideas and its ability to construct another sensory world that can inspire an array of subtle feelings,' Che Xuanqiao explains.
Among the first works she collected was Gift by Chen Wenbo—an artist who also appeared in the UCCA show and who has 'carved out a niche for himself in the Chinese contemporary realist movement with his photorealist paintings,' she notes. Other favourites include Old Money (2018) by painter Song Yuanyuan, and the three-channel video work Lithium Lake and the Lonely Island of Polyphony (2020) by Liu Chuang.
On her approach to collecting, Che Xuanqiao is interested in an array of different media and themes, including women, nature, and the body—as reflected in her selections below. 'We certainly don't collect based on what makes the cover of an auction catalogue,' she explains. 'We very often deal with posthumanism and transgender issues. At the same time, I try to take a future perspective in considering how we might write an art history of the present.'
798 Art Zone, where the Center is located, was established in the early 2000s and has been a pivotal hub for the city's art scene, as well as the country at large. However, Che Xuanqiao suggests that Beijing's art ecosystem is still establishing itself, and that there is a need for 'more new and novel spaces of different kinds.'
'Even though we built the Center in Beijing, we want it to be an institution that connects many different places,' she explains. 'In these times, a physical space can become a site for many kinds of things.'
On recent artist discoveries, Che Xuanqiao points to Shao Chun—a multimedia artist based in Hangzhou—whose practice encompasses multimedia installation, e-textiles, speculative design, and data-driven art. The artist recently showed her work in Riddle Bodies at The Cloister Project space in Shanghai, presenting new installations, sculptures, and objects.
'By presenting solo exhibitions for two women artists from different cultural backgrounds and generations,' Che says, 'we hope to explore more deeply the aesthetic and lived dimensions of contemporary performance practice.'
Main image: Photo: Mengqi Bao.