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Go big or go home often seems the reigning credo of the contemporary art world. It’s something true for Arsenal Toronto, which opened last year in a 720-square-metre repurposed industrial space in the city’s funky-but-gentrifying Bloordale neighbourhood. Now the gallery has mounted a group exhibition equal to the size of its space and its artistic ambitions. Called Like Thunder Out of China, it features works in a variety of media by 13 contemporary artists from the People’s Republic as well as a selection of videos. Couple this with the Ai Weiwei retrospective opening Aug. 17 at the Art Gallery of Ontario and it seems Toronto is the place to be in Canada if you’re looking for a potent distillation of art trends and provocations in the world’s largest country. The Arsenal show had an almost five-month run earlier this year at the gallery’s spacious headquarters in Montreal and, once its Toronto iteration wraps Oct. 5, the works head to Belgium. The exhibition is curated by Paris-based Chinese art specialist Pia Camilla Copper and Margot Ross, a Montreal art consultant.

In the foreground is Miss Mao, a large, decidedly irreverent stainless-steel bust by Beijing’s Gao Brothers, Zhen and Qiang. Their father died during the Mao-inspired Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Chinese authorities have reportedly destroyed at least one version of this piece. Behind: an American flag in the manner of Jasper Johns but in this instance made from human hair by Shanghai-born, New York-based Gu Wenda.

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Animal Farm, a large digital print from 2009, made by rock musician and artist Chang Lei, shows Chinese Communist leaders, past and present, reviewing a parade of animals from their viewing stand in Beijing’s Forbidden City.

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Pad Masambhava (2010), a large hologram print from a digital photo by Hung Tung-Lu, 45, who’s actually from Taiwan. “In Hung’s world, artificial commodities – flowers, dummies – become immediate realities … and nature is becoming obsolete if not already a myth.”

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