Gaotai (Urumqi, Xinjiang) is the first international art center and contemporary art gallery in its region. As a social enterprise, Gaotai aims to promote cross-regional and cross-cultural dialogue between local and international artists through major exhibitions, public forums and other social events.
The gallery was founded by Xing Musa Ma in 2019, who was born and grew up in Xinjiang, has experience studying and working in Beijing, Dubai, Geneva and New York. Musa has a Masters degree in global affairs from Tsinghua University and is a member of Schwarzman Scholars.
Gaotai currently represents artists from China and regions along the ancient Silk Road, featuring works related to environmental, cultural and gender concerns.
‘My parents are both Han Chinese who grew up in Southern Xinjiang. I also grew up in a multi-ethnic family compound that belonged to a TV station. I was fascinated by my Uyghur neighbors when I was young, especially the unique beauty of their daily lives.’
While photographs of Xinjiang’s Uyghur population have become a flashpoint for discussions of human rights in recent months, Ma hopes to add more nuance to the wider world’s understanding of Urumqi and Uyghur culture from the perspective of street-level fashion.
‘My hometown is so different from New York City, even from most other cities in China,” she says, adding: “I want people to know this place and love it as I do, to feel it as I feel. And that’s also what photography means to me — to share a memory, share a new place, a culture, a lifestyle, or even a piece of clothing.’
Ma Hailun moved to New York in 2013 to study BFA Photography and then MPS Fashion Photography at the School of Visual Arts. Six and a half thousand miles from home - the mountainous Chinese province of Xinjiang – the city was a world unlike anything shed' known before. Studying within the Western art school system was formative, encouraging her to look to her own cultural upbringing for inspiration. She has already appeared in nearly a dozen exhibitions, both individual and group shows, in a variety of venues, from New York to Miami to Mumbai and her native China. Just as impressive, her work has been featured and she herself has been profiled in many important publications, including NYLON, New York Magazine, i-D magazine, and Artinfo.