In Media

1. In the beginning…

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art has been part of Manchester’s vibrant cultural landscape for almost 35 years. Formerly known as Chinese Art Centre, it started life in 1986 as a festival to provide a platform for the Chinese artistic community in Manchester and beyond. Chinese View ’86 was organised by Hong Kong artist Amy Lai. Since then it has grown to become a unique art gallery in the heart of the city centre with a year-round programme of socially engaged exhibitions, events, and artist residencies that provide an insight into contemporary Chinese life, art and culture.

Image: Programme for the Chinese View '86 Art Festival, 1986. Image courtesy of CFCCA.

2. Exhibitions – exploring global issues from different international perspectives

Just a couple of minutes wander from Manchester’s Arndale Centre, CFCCA’s building houses two very different gallery spaces which are free to enter and visited by over 40,000 people every year. 

The gallery hasn’t always been in the Northern Quarter, it started life in a modest second floor premises on Charlotte Street in Manchester’s China Town before moving to Edge Street and finding its current home on Thomas Street in 2003.

Since it was founded, the Centre has promoted and presented the work of over 350 emerging and established artists in its various galleries. Their first large-scale contemporary art exhibition, Beyond the Chinese Takeaway in 1992, represented the experiences of second and third generation British-Chinese artists. In recent years the Centre extended its work on an international level, responding to China’s growing cultural and economic influence and becoming a space for conversation, debate and cross-cultural exchange. Recent exhibitions have included Chinternet Ugly, which navigated the messy vitality of China’s online realm; and Future Cities: Technopolis & Everyday Life, which explored how evolving technologies have affected our interactions with the urban, natural and domestic environment.

Image: Install view of Ye Funa, Beauty Plus Save the Real World (2018), Chinternet Ugly, at CFCCA, 2019. Image courtesy of CFCCA. Photo by Michael Pollard.

3. The Residency space – a home from home for emerging artists  

Hidden away to the side of the gallery through a concealed door is a rather special and truly unique creative space. The CFCCA residency studio is a self-contained living space that supports emerging artists to develop their work and practice, with the option to immerse themselves in the buzz of the vibrant city or exist in solitude with their craft. CFCCA work with cultural partners across the globe to support international and UK based artists to enjoy time in this space. 

Image: Yunyi Liu, open studio event in the residency studio at CFCCA, 2019. Image courtesy of CFCCA. Photo by Michael Pollard.

4. Events – talk, learn, play

Events and workshops make up a key part of the organisation’s year-round programme. From film screenings and fermentation workshops to Minecraft clubs and cultural debates, not only are their events full of intrigue and interest, they’re often free or very affordable. 

Image: Ada Hao, You Know I Told You So performance in response to CFCCA's archive, 2018. Image courtesy of CFCCA. Photo by Joe Smith.

5. Collaboration and connection 

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art aren’t just curators, creators and artists. They are quiet instigators of activity and their connections are far reaching. From co-commissioning projects with the likes of Manchester International Festival and Liverpool Biennial, to acquiring work with The University of Salford Art Collection, to working with a wealth of international partners, the city and its inhabitants have enjoyed the influence and support of the organisation for almost 35 years. 

6. Supporting communities

CFCCA began as a place to encourage community cohesion and bring people together. This legacy lives on. The Centre is committed to creating opportunities for a diverse audience to learn, engage, interact and respond to their programme.

Every fortnight, they host the Dumpling Social Club, a free-to-attend art and food club for older people from Manchester’s Chinese community. Funded by the National Lottery, the club was created to combat feelings of social isolation amongst the Chinese elderly and promote wellbeing through coming together to eat, share stories and make art. 

YouthLab is CFCCA’s tailor-made project for young people (16-25 year olds). It is specifically designed to help young people develop their creative and collaborative skills to give them a leg up to enter into the creative industries. 

Then, for all those in between, there’s the volunteer programme. Integral to the smooth running of the organisation, volunteering at CFCCA provides you with the opportunity to soak up the peaks and troughs of day-to-day gallery life.

Image: Marbling workshop by Gulizar Subay, Dumpling Social Club at CFCCA, 2020. Image courtesy of CFCCA. Photo by Ben Harrison.

7. The Eco Shop

CFCCA’s small and unique shop is a miniature mart for distinctive and noteworthy possessions and presents. There’s sushi socks and eclectic jewellery, bold artist prints and academic contemporary art titles. Most products carry a confident eco credential so you can spend, guilt free.

8. The Archive and Library 

Films, books, images, brochures, artworks. CFCCA’s Archive and Library offers access to resources that record their unique contribution to the progression of Chinese contemporary art and artists since 1986.

What’s more, visitors and academics can book a visit to the Archive and Library supported by the CFCCA’s Archivist. And if you can’t get there, you can always browse the collection online:

9. A building with culturally connective architectural elements 

The CFCCA galleries are housed in the converted Grade II listed Smithfield Market building and it’s as intriguing on the inside as it is on the out. The black zinc spine wall running through the building is a reference to the dark grey brickwork of Northern China, and the dimensions of the entrance layout and flooring pattern were influenced by the traditional “hutong” courtyard typically found in Beijing. The foyer also houses walnut panelling, suggestive of the wall types found in traditional Chinese tea houses.

What’s more, their striking iron gates at the main entrance are designed in the style of a sliding screen comprised of Chinese characters which spell out ‘Chinese Arts Centre’. The design was influenced by the art of paper-cutting, and was created by artist Mary Tang who was one of the original founders of the organisation.

Image: External view of CFCCA, 2015. Image courtesy of CFCCA. Photo by Arthur Siuksta.

10. A hidden gem

Amidst the hubbub of the Northern Quarter’s independent eateries, bold bars and assorted specialist shops, blink and you might miss it.

But don’t.

With its rich and significant history and intriguing RIBA award-wining building, there’s nothing quite like CFCCA in the rest of the UK:


esea contemporary
Chinternet Ugly exhibition at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA)

esea contemporary is the UK’s only non-profit art centre specialising in presenting and platforming artists and art practices that identify with and are informed by East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) cultural backgrounds.



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