I AM sitting in my house in Glasgow talking to artist and musician Ross Sinclair on FaceTime. Sinclair has been living and working in Shanghai for the last three and a half weeks and he is in his temporary studio at the Shanghai Himalayas Museum. In the background are posters which declare: Real Life Is Dead/Long Live Real Life. Sinclair is telling me about how he has just come from the gallery space where two solo exhibitions; from him and from fellow Scottish artist Bruce McLean are being installed.

"I suggested mounting the posters on the wall with wallpaper paste," he says. "They don't really use wallpaper paste in China so they sourced a similar type of glue. The installation team were horrified that I said we had to paste over the front of the posters."

As the conversation continues, I realise this is one of many cross-cultural obstacles which Sinclair and co-curators, Sophia Hao of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design's Cooper Gallery and Wang Nanming, director of Shanghai Himalayas Museum, have had to overcome in the course of realising Current: Contemporary Art from Scotland in Shanghai.

Later, I speak to Hao via Skype, she tells me this ambitious project had its origins in an exhibition called Hubs and Fictions, which toured from Dundee to Newcastle to London in 2012.

Wang Nanming, then head of research/curator of the Himalayas Art Museum, took part in this project and the following year, Shanghai's Himalayas Art Museum proposed a collaboration with the Dundee's Cooper Gallery. This, Hao explains, led to the two organisations devising and delivering an ambitious programme of contemporary art from Scotland.

Phase One took place in 2015 with Phase Two in early 2016. The project moves into Phase Three today following the opening of McLean's I Want My Crown and Sinclair's Real Life is Dead/Long Live Real Life last night.

According to Hao, placing the two artists side-by-side on this prestigious international platform felt like a natural pairing. "They have a real feel for gesture in both the conceptual and the physical sense," she says. "Performativity is key to their work. Two years ago, when I started talking to Wang Nanming about the different parts of this project, we both agreed they would be complimentary. They present different works from different generations. Both critique the art world and society.

"People in China have a very romanticised view of Scotland and this project has generated a lot of interest. People in the arts here didn't know about the achievement of contemporary art in Scotland. They knew about the work of Bruce McLean but they didn't know he is from Scotland, for example. This project has meant people are having an in-depth look at contemporary art from Scotland."

McLean and Sinclair make an interesting pairing. Glasgow-born McLean attended the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) from 1961-1963 before heading to London to study at Saint Martin's alongside the likes of Anthony Caro and Phillip King. He was at the forefront of conceptual art in Britain in the 1960s, reacting against his academic background by making sculpture out of old bits of rubbish. Never happy to place art on a plinth; one of the photographic works on display in Shanghai, Pose Works for Plinths (1971), sees a youthful McLean straddling three plinths of varying sizes.

I Want My Crown presents McLean's earlier films, video and photographic documentation of actions alongside newly-created work. This includes rarely-seen video recordings of actions by the collective group Nice Style: The World’s First Pose Band established by McLean and his collaborators in 1971.

Sinclair is a key player within the so-called Glasgow Miracle generation of artists to emerge from the GSA in the 1990s. Since the 1980s, when he was a founding member of popular Glasgow indie band, The Soup Dragons, music has lain at the heart of all his art work.

Currently a reader in contemporary art practice in the School of Fine Art at GSA, Sinclair is best known for his Real Life project, initiated when he had the words REAL LIFE tattooed in black ink across his back at Terry’s Tattoo parlour in Glasgow in 1994.

As well as creating new artworks and films for the new exhibition in Shanghai – the modification to his tattoo by Stephen Spears at Deviltown Tattoo in Glasgow has been filmed and is on display – Sinclair has also worked with local musicians, artists, singers and publics to create The Chinese-Scottish Real Life Orchestra. Their performance from last night has also been filmed for visitors to enjoy.

Although he doesn't show me it during our FaceTime call, I know that this tattoo, which has played a key part in Sinclair's work for the last 23 years, has been modified to read: Real Life is Dead.

"So what's going on, Ross?" I ask across the ether. "Is real life life really dead?" He laughs. "Well, it had been coming for a while… I did a PhD on 20 years of Real Life and I started looking at the beginnings of the project and its impact. This made me reappraise the project and how I am working now – which led me to the Real Life is Dead idea.

"Ostensibly, it sounds depressing, but I decided it was a chance for a reappraisal of contemporary culture, and thought, let's turn it round to Long Live Real Life. There was a certain melancholia attached to looking at a project which I started in my twenties, when I felt that art could change the world. Now, over 23 years on, I have a more pragmatic view but I still think that there are conversations to be had around the work on a modest one-to-one scale.

"Adding the words Long Live Real Life to the tattoo just makes it permanent."

Current: Contemporary Art from Scotland Phase three: Bruce McLean: I Want My Crown & Ross Sinclair: Long Life Real Life/Real Life Is Dead, Shanghai Himalayas Museum, Shanghai. From today until November 10. www.dundee.ac.uk/djcad/exhibitions/internationalprojects/