In October 2013, the University of Salford launched a new partnership with the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art at Media City, establishing a new collection of Chinese Contemporary Art that would be available for loan to museums and galleries nationally and internationally. The partnership came about through initial informal discussions between Lindsay Taylor, Art Curator at University of Salford, and Sarah Fisher who was the Interim Director at the CFCCA at the time. The partnership posed a beneficial opportunity for both institutions to build and develop a unique collection of Chinese Contemporary Art, with provision for regular co-commissions and acquisitions through the CFCCA exhibition and artist residency programmes.

Early on it was recognised that there were key mutual benefits for both the University and the CFCCA. Both would have an opportunity to raise their profile and increase connections internationally, and for the University it was an opportunity to offer students ‘real world’ experience working in or in response to a working gallery and collection. At a time where the Impact Agenda and National Student Surveys are key in Higher Education, the University was supportive of the partnership and the then University’s Vice Chancellor signed a memorandum of understanding with the CFCCA. From the CFCCA’s perspective the partnership had multiple benefits – it would build the legacy of the organisations programme, it would help with the possibility of conducting AHRC bids, and it would build on Manchester’s larger internationalisation strategy to connect with China generally.

The co-signed memorandum of understanding states the partnership’s intentions and provides a sense of longevity and formality to the partnership beyond the individual staff who helped set up the partnership. Officially the collection belongs to the University, and it the University who is responsible for the maintenance and display of the collection in accordance with museum accreditation standards. In turn, the CFCCA have facilitated students coming on site, talking to artists in residence, and have organised teaching happening in its galleries. Occasionally photography students from the University will do a practical placement at the CFCCA documenting events or exhibitions – a partnership strand which also includes Redeye, another CFN member. There is no stated financial responsibility made to each other in the memorandum, but there is a sense of generosity as a partnership. The University has an annual acquisitions budget for the collection as a whole, and some money is allocated on a case by case basis to the joint collection – following approval from the Acquisitions committee, with final signoff from the University’s Vice Chancellor. Often the CFCCA is given use of A/V equipment owned by the University to produce shows, and the CFCCA provide support in the way of staff, space, co-commissions and access to its large network of artists across China. Both the University and the CFCCA invest in marketing and communication for joint projects. In February 2018 the Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art will be exhibited in its entirety in St George’s Hall, Liverpool.

Since the memorandum has been signed the partnership has continued to evolve and has become deeply embedded in the way both the University and the CFCCA work. Allan Walker, Dean of the School of Arts and Media has become one of the CFCCA’s trustees, and a jointly funded Research Curator position at both the CFCCA and the University is proving to be really successful. In 2015, bolstered by its partnership with University of Salford, the CFCCA initiated the creation of the Asia Research Network for Arts and Media (ARNAM) – an “interdisciplinary and intercultural grouping for the teaching, learning and research of Asia and its global diaspora”. The ARNAM connects the CFCCA, The University of Salford, Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester – pooling expertise, funds, contacts and knowledge with the aim of becoming a leading international resource for the research of contemporary Asian art and media. This Network allows each member to expand the possibilities of who their students, staff and teachers can work with and raises the potential for creating work with longevity in partnership with other organisations – academic or cultural – in the UK and in China itself. It has raised the profile internationally of those involved already, and future plans to create a digital presence and symposium will continue to do so. From an initial informal discussion, the University of Salford and the CFCCA have come a long way, but the partnership relies on continued communication, enthusiasm and creative thinking to succeed in its ambitious plans for the future.

Lindsay Taylor, Art Curator, University of Salford: l.a.taylor@salford.ac.uk

Zoe Dunbar, Director, CFCCA: zoe@ccfa.org.uk

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