Tour aims to make art easy for uninitiated

Updated: 2015-07-21 08:31

By Ming Liu(China Daily)

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Tour aims to make art easy for uninitiated

Statues at Terracotta Warriors Museum in Xi'an, Shaanxi province. A trip to the city is part of Christie's recent collector's tour. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Daunted by the prospect of collecting Chinese art?

Expert help is now at hand courtesy of auction house Christie's, which has launched a new collector's tour titled Christie's Art Journey: Ancient to Contemporary China.

Planned over 10 days and including four Chinese cities-Shanghai, Jingdezhen, Xi'an and Beijing-the tour will begin in Shanghai on Oct 23, offering guests unrivalled private access to China's art world.

"The tour is meant to inculcate a sense of wonder and insider access," says Nixi Cura, program director, Arts of China, at Christie's Education.

Cura, an honorary research fellow at the University of Glasgow and co-founder of the Arts of China Consortium, and a specialist in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) art, will be the tour guide. "We are trying to capture both markets. Our guests will have China on their bucket list but don't know how to approach it ... (but) their passion is art."

Christie's has partnered with the luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent to create the itinerary. The tour group, which Cura expects to number in the "low teens", will be treated to top stays at the likes of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Shanghai and the Opposite House in Beijing, while dining on Michelin-starred fare at Jean Georges on the Bund and at the renowned Defachang and Hai Shi Hai Hang restaurants in Xi'an.

Complementing these haute travel features are the standout art experiences. Called the tour's "signature moments", they speak to Christie's expertise. Examples include a trip to the Terracotta Warriors Museum in Xi'an, where the group will visit a special archaeological site-an area that is usually only open to heads of state-to view Terracotta Warriors in their original colors, something that is rarely seen.

Another restricted space the group will see on the private tour is Chong Hua Gong in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Once the Qianlong emperor's private quarters where he received guests, the furniture and buildings have remained largely unchanged since the 18th century.

In 2013, Christie's became the first international fine art auction company to be granted a license to operate independently in China, and the tour will begin with a visit to Shanghai, access to specialists there and a private preview of the lots in an upcoming sale, Cura says.

Curator-led tours of Shanghai Museum, Long Museum and Minsheng Museum, and visits to the Yu Gardens and Huxinting teahouse, will cap the Shanghai leg.

Next up is a two-day visit to Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province, known as China's "porcelain capital" with a 1,700-year history of producing Chinese pottery, most notably royal wares from the historic Hutian and Imperial kilns. Cura says that Jingdezhen is also a burgeoning hub for contemporary Chinese pottery. After a tour of the ancient kilns, Cura will walk guests through the Ceramics Institute where guests can try their hand at creating pottery.

At the Xi'an museum, guests will not only view ancient objects rarely seen by the public-from gold and silverware to jade, bronze and ceramics works-but also don a pair of white gloves to personally handle the artefacts.

In Beijing, a typical trip to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall adds flavor, with a champagne and buffet lunch on the wall itself. Another highlight of the Beijing leg will be a visit to a leading contemporary artist's studio.

"Some people may be intimidated by the market," Cura says, noting that art aficionados see the news and notice that China is hot right now.

"But partially, our role is to say, 'Really, it's not that scary'."

If you go

Christie's Art Journeys: Ancient to Contemporary China

Oct 23-Nov 1. From $13,600 per person (excluding airfare); +44(0) 207-389-2830.