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closed China goes urban

The show

After a long period of forced closure and the resumption in late spring, the MAO Museo d’Arte Orientale di Torino starts the autumn program with a look to the future, and does so through an original exhibition entitled "China goes urban. The new era of the city ”, curated by the Polytechnic of Turin and by Prospekt Photographers with the Tsinghua University of Beijing, and organized in collaboration with Intesa Sanpaolo.


The exhibition is the result of many years of research and offers the public a new and broad perspective that draws a line of continuity between past, present and future, relating the culture of traditional China with the impressive transformations of contemporary Chinese cities. An opportunity to investigate and question the challenges posed by the urban changes taking place not only in China, but throughout the planet. Starting from the exploration of some Chinese new towns and the contradictions triggered by the frenetic processes of urbanization and urban expansion, the exhibition aims to stimulate a reflection on the city of today and the future.


More than 16 million people in China move from rural to urban areas each year, giving rise to what is considered the largest mass migration the world has ever seen. This is not an "exceptional" process, but a global trend: as noted by UN-Habitat, in 2007 the planet's urban population exceeded the rural population.

However, the phenomenon of planetary urbanization does not only imply the increase in the population of cities or the development of settlements, but also the increase of increasingly intense social, economic, political and functional relations between the different regions of the world. This development model, which has established itself over the centuries, has limits and contradictions, both from an environmental and socio-economic point of view, which are particularly evident in the current phase of uncertainty due to the health emergency and the consequences in terms of economic and worsening inequalities.


"China goes urban. The new era of cities ”intends to question the urban, architectural and socio-economic change processes of contemporary China, considered as a mirror in which the possibilities and limits of the contemporary city are reflected, in China as elsewhere. Intertwining research and imagination, the exhibition is an exploration of four new towns - Tongzhou, Zhengdong, Zhaoqing and Lanzhou - through which to investigate the new Chinese urbanization and lead the visitor to question (our) common urban future. At the center of the exhibition are three main themes that define the characteristics of Chinese urbanization: the fragment, as a specific feature of the contemporary city and its architecture; infrastructure, a key element of urban operation; and the overcoming of the city / countryside dichotomy in favor of new forms of urbanization extended to overcome entities defined as stable.


The exhibition runs along two logical sequences: the first begins with the reconstruction of an exhibition hall, an iconic place typical of Chinese new towns, where public administrations and construction companies stage the city to promote its style. of life and the successes achieved, and comes to global urbanization. The second sequence moves starting from empty and atonic spaces to reach people, individuals taken in their daily activities or in portraits "located" within the new settlements. The two sequences continuously intertwine, gradually dismantling the reassuring concept of Chinese “exceptionalism”: what appears exotic and distant from a distance and at a superficial glance, turns out to be much more familiar than we think. The new Chinese urbanizations no longer appear as "other than us": in the new towns of contemporary China, daily life is made up of the same small gestures that life at every latitude is made of and the people who perform them are no different from us in the behaviors, practices, desires. 

Works on display

Timetable and tickets


Via San Domenico, 9-11
10100 Torino


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