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Xiaowen Zhu is the Director of esea contemporary, 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. esea contemporary is situated in an award-winning building in the heart of Manchester, home to one of the largest East Asian populations in the UK. Since its inauguration as a community-oriented visual arts festival in 1986, esea contemporary – previously named Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art – has continuously evolved to establish itself as a dynamic and engaging space for cross-cultural exchanges in the British art scene, as well as in a global context. 

Zhu has worked internationally in Shanghai, New York, Los Angeles, London and Berlin as a director, author and lecturer. She was most recently assistant director at Times Art Center Berlin, the first parallel institution to have been set up overseas by an Asian art museum, namely, the Guangdong Times Museum. Zhu has organised and conceived numerous contemporary art exhibitions, working closely with both established and emerging artists from all over the world.

Zhu is the author of artist book Oriental Silk (Hatje Cantz, 2020) and collection of short stories Encounters (Shanghai Educational Publishing House, 2022). Her essays, prose, interviews, and reviews of her book have appeared in Art Review, e-flux, Kaleidoscope, Asian Review of Books, Crown Magazine, Arts of the Working Class, It’s Nice That, and elsewhere. Zhu has given lectures and talks at London School of Economics and Political Science, Goldsmiths, University of London, Heidelberg University, Lund University, University of Westminster, Rhode Island School of Design, New York University, Syracuse University, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, among others. She is listed by Apollo magazine as a 40 Under 40 Asia Pacific Thinker.

Read on

Director's Letter
It is with great pleasure that we relaunch esea contemporary, previously known as the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art

Interweaving 交织

A hybrid of fiction, non-fiction, memoir, archive,
and script that explores what silk meant to Asian migrants

Oriental Silk 乡绸
An English-Chinese bilingual book exploring the complex relationship
between people and object in migrants' worlds (also a documentary film)


You can also find me on Instagram.


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