Chinese national treasures head to Virginia

Updated: 2014-07-18 13:53

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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Continuing its cultural exchange with the Palace Museum in Beijing, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond announced that it will feature a trove of national Chinese treasures in a new exhibit.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) will showcase nearly 200 pieces of artwork from the Palace Museum's collection in an exhibit called Forbidden City: Imperial Treasures from the Palace Museum, running from Oct 18 to Jan 11.

Featured pieces will represent imperial artwork from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1616-1911) dynasties, with a focus on the mid-Qing, the governor's office announced on Wednesday.

"This project is a true relationship between our museums and reflects the vitality of engagement with China throughout Virginia from cultural and economic development initiatives," said Alex Nyerges, director of the VMFA. "The exhibition is exceptional because it features nearly 50 paintings by court officials and court artists, including magnificent silk paintings depicting important historic events in monumental scale."

Nyerges told China Daily that although US-China cultural exchange has been taking place, it hasn't been happening as much as it should and he hopes that the VMFA's collaboration with the Palace Museum can do more to showcase what the largest museum in the world has to offer.

"It's a fabulous treasure house with 1.8 million objects and we're going to have a mere 200," Nyerges said. "For that alone, it's important. I think more important is something that transcends the art itself - it's about the culture and the people of China and the people of America.

"In some small way - and it's certainly my fervent home that we, through greater appreciation of Chinese art and culture and the people that have created it - it's the ability to bring our two countries and two peoples together," he added.

Chinese national treasures head to Virginia

Pieces in the exhibit include costumes, objects of worked gold, silver and jade, paintings, sculptures and other decorative artworks. The show will be organized into four sections: rituals of the Qing court, court arts of the Inner Court, court paintings and religion in the palace.

"Forbidden City addresses how Qing rulers incorporated their Manchu nomadic traditions, adopted cultural elements from ethnic groups, and endeavored to create a diverse government and maintain societal harmony," a press release from the museum said.

The exhibit will be underwritten by Altria Group and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

The museum also plans to run a series of educational programs to complement the Forbidden City show, including an interactive replica of a typical merchant-class family home outside the walls of the Forbidden City in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Virginia Commonwealth University will also offer an eight-session Chinese art history class for adults.

In addition to the Forbidden City exhibit, VMFA also announced that it will be the first US art museum to feature its permanent collection in the Beijing museum, sending its Faberg collection to China, where it will be exhibited in the Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City, the location of the Palace Museum, in 2016. The exhibit includes about 400 objects from Russia, including 170 works from the House of Faberg and five Imperial Easter Eggs.

VMFA signed a partnering agreement with the Palace Museum in 2011 to showcase each other's collections and culture. "This is Virginia's year to celebrate China," Nyerges said. "We have been graciously welcomed by the Palace Museum."

In March, VMFA invited the Palace Museum's Wang Yanjing for a two-month residency in Richmond where she conducted a condition survey of the Chinese works in VMFA's collection. She worked with the museum's staff in the painting conservation lab to treat paintings and remount scrolls.

(China Daily USA 07/18/2014 page2)