Close this search box.

The new director of esea contemporary sets out her vision for the art centre ahead of opening this Saturday

The incredible esea contemporary arts centre in the Northern Quarter is set for a big re-opening next week.

Their first exhibition is entitled Practise Till We Meet and opens on 18th of February running till March 28th.

It has been curated by Hanlu Zhang, featuring work from: Asia-Art-Activism, Asian Feminist Studio for Art and Research, Audrey Albert, Isaac Chong Wai, Mimian Hsu, Liu Weiwei and Koki Tanaka.

The exhibition delves into themes of diasporic experiences and the conditions that surround migration.

The multifaceted relationship between politics and migration is at the core of the works being displayed, which also investigate colonial history, authoritarian regimes, and geopolitical interests and forces ‘much larger than the interests of the individual’ which cause people to move away from their homeland and into an unfamiliar place with an uncertain future.

We spoke to esea contemporary’s new Director, Xiaowen Zhu, to discuss her vision for the future of the gallery.

She said: “We were founded in 1986, as a community orientated artist festival for the Chinese Community, so we’ve come a long way to this beautiful space you can see here today in the Northern Quarter.

“After a few evolutions, we’re the esea contemporary today.

“We are so proud to be the only non-profit art centre in the country celebrating East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) culture and artists.

Xiaowen said that looking forward, the esea contemporary was going to centre their work around four core values: Creativity, Compassion, Collectivity and Interconnectedness.

She continued: “The first of our values, creativity, comes naturally as we are an art centre presenting contemporary visual art.

“The focus is on artists who are from, or whose work is informed by esea culture or heritage.

“In Manchester we’re in a unique position because the city has such a high population proportion of people from esea countries, we can reflect this in what we display in this beautiful building.

“Our second value is compassion, because we recognise the need to advocate a compassionate worldview.

“We want to be inclusive and perceived as a very welcoming space.  All of our exhibitions will always be free although as a non-profit organisation we accept donations.

“The final two values are collectivity and interconnectedness.

“We will always be advocates for a more collaborative process of working. Luckily for us, Manchester has a strong culture of advocating for collaboration and working together.

“We  are blessed by the progressiveness of Manchester as a city and a place to work and live.”

Work from Audrey Albert

You can read all about Practice Till We Meet, esea contemporary’s first exhibition opening on 18th February by clicking here.

The new exhibition showcases artists from all over the world, but also local to Manchester too.

Some will be featured in Manchester for the first time, with a real mix of emerging artists and established coming together at esea contemporary.

Xiaowen said: “There’s no other place like us in the UK or Europe.

“There are many fantastic and wonderful artists working in the field but they may not get the recognition, or their work might not be presented as prominently in other galleries.

“It’s out mission here to platform and present them to the world. And, it’s mutually beneficial. We present them but in return we learn so much from artists and their experiences.

“They deserve larger recognition in the cultural landscape of Manchester, and that’s what we’re here to offer.”

Did we miss something? Let us know: [email protected]

Want to be the first to receive all the latest news stories, what’s on and events from the heart of Manchester? Sign up here.


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

Got a story worth sharing?

What’s the story? We are all ears when it comes to positive news and inspiring stories. You can send story ideas to [email protected]

Close this search box.