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Extraordinary Exhibitions Showcase China at Te Papa

18 March 2014

Extraordinary Exhibitions Showcase China at Te Papa

Centuries-old imperial treasures rarely seen outside of China, and a glimpse into the life of a unique modern artist with an uncompromising vision, are showcased in two extraordinary exhibitions opening only at Te Papa.

From 22 March 2014, visitors will have just three months to explore two very different but complimentary exhibitions brought exclusively to Te Papa from the National Museum of China in Beijing. It is rare for China’s national museum to send one exhibition to a museum outside of China, and unheard of for it to send two. These ones will not be seen anywhere else in the world.

This unique collaboration between national museums has produced Throne of Emperors . The exhibition explores two thousand years of history through the reigns of some of the most powerful rulers that ever lived - seven fascinating emperors with different personalities and talents. Some were explorers, some refined and some militaristic, like the mighty Genghis Khan.

Te Papa’s Curator of Decorative Art and Design, Justine Olsen, says “The range of extraordinary objects includes a large pottery work from the Tang Dynasty called Foreigner on camelback, which reflects the passage of goods, peoples and ideas through the Silk Road that extended from modern day Xi’an through to Rome.”

The exhibition showcases a stunning selection of rare cultural treasures, including two thousand year-old silks, detailed model ships and precious gold vessels from imperial tombs. Artefacts illustrate extensive military campaigns, incredible inventions that changed the world like gunpowder, and momentous achievements, such as the great maritime explorations of the Ming Dynasty.

Shi Lu: A revolution in paint , introduces Australasia to the stunning works of an artist committed to portraying twentieth-century China through calligraphy and painting. Shi Lu (1919–82) faced the immense challenge of balancing art with the political and cultural revolution, and tradition with innovation. His works reflect a turbulent, often tragic, life through which he never lost his artistic vision.

Some of Shi Lu’s paintings have never been outside of China before, however his family, along with the National Museum of China, have now made this unique glimpse into the life of a modern master possible.

A curator of historical art at Te Papa, Rebecca Rice, says “Shi Lu’s family, along with the National Museum of China, have been extremely generous in enabling us to tell a deeply personal story about how one man’s painting responded to and reflected the changing circumstances of modern China. Along with the paintings themselves, the family has provided biographical photographs and painting materials used by Shi Lu, which enrich our understanding of the man and his art.”

Both exhibitions were especially developed for Te Papa with the National Museum of China. Te Papa’s Chief Executive, Michael Houlihan, says “This partnership bridges national and cultural boundaries, and has produced two marvelous exhibitions of international significance. It is only by understanding the richness of China’s historical journey and the profound changes of its recent past that we gain insight into the culture of one of today’s most powerful nations.”

The visionaries profiled in each of these exhibitions changed practices and perspectives forever, in China and in some cases the rest of the world.

Opening weekend at Te Papa (22 and 23 March 2014) will be full of festivities, including dragon dancing, tea tasting, live music and calligraphy demonstrations.

Throne of Emperors and Shi Lu: A revolution in paint , – run at Te Papa in the Visa Platinum Gallery and Te Ihomatua Gallery from 22 March 2014 to 22 June 2014.

One ten dollar ticket provides an adult with access to both exhibitions. Children under 15 years FREE. Te Papa prefers Visa.


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