Enlightenment Art in China

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on September 16, 2010

It’s interesting to see the politics of the Enlightenment play out two centuries later. From the the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden:

Art of the Enlightenment
National Museum of China, Beijing, 1 March 2011 — 31 March 2012

Georg Desmarées "The Artist with His Daughter, Antonia," 1750-1774 © Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München

The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Munich are to collaborate in presenting the largest exhibition on European art from the Enlightenment period ever to go on show in Asia. In the spring of 2011 the three museums will be exhibiting more than 350 works of art in an area covering 2,700 square metrers at the National Museum of China. The focus will be on major works of art which demonstrate the great ideas of this period, their influence on the fine arts and the history of their reception from the artistic revolutions of the 18th century down to the present day.

The exhibition presents the image world of a period on the threshold of modernity, the ideas of which are of programmatic significance for art today. Paintings, drawings, prints, costumes, furniture and spatial art, sculptures and books will bring all the various facets of the Enlightenment period and its reception history to life for a Chinese audience. Among the masterpieces on display will be works by Watteau, Boucher, Pesne, Piranesi, Chodowiecki, Hogarth and Goya, thus illustrating the wide range of works and the themes which informed the culture of this era, from the Ancien Régime to the Modern period.

The catalogue, which will be published in Chinese and English, will present the latest research findings concerning the art of the Enlightenment and other aspects of this period. This joint exhibition is being financed primarily by the German Foreign Office. It marks the high point of the programme of German-Chinese cultural exchange that was agreed in 2005.

The exhibition Art of the Enlightenment at the National Museum of China will be on display for 18 months. The National Museum on Tiananmen Square in Beijing is currently being refurbished and expanded according to plans drawn up by the Hamburg firm of architects Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp). When completed, it will have a total floor area of approximately 200,000 square metres. With its redesigned building, the museum is intended to become a centre for the world’s cultures, a venue in which outstanding guest exhibitions from all over the world will be presented.

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One hint of the politics at work surrounding the exhibition (at least on the German side) can be gleaned from the efforts of Stiftung Mercator (for information on the group, see below) . . .

Stiftung Mercator is currently planning a series of events to officially accompany the “Art in Enlightenment” exhibition which is to be shown in the National Museum of China in Beijing in 2011. In cooperation with the Berlin State Museums, the Dresden State Art Collections, the Bavarian State Painting Collections in Munich and the Federal Foreign Office, Stiftung Mercator will be organizing a series of events entitled “Enlightenment in Dialogue” within the framework of the National Museum of China exhibition “The Art in Enlightenment” in Beijing.

The events will comprise a number of dialogue blocks which will continue for the entire duration of the exhibition. The dialogue blocks will take place in parallel to the exhibition, addressing various facets of a contemporary examination of the subject of enlightenment. Each dialogue consists of a lecture and a panel discussion.

The objective of the series of events is to perceive enlightenment as part of a universal “global heritage of ideas” and to stimulate an open dialogue on the importance of enlightenment in modern times. Stiftung Mercator wishes to bring together Chinese and European scholars, writers and artists and, in particular, to highlight the value of enlightenment for key questions relating to identity and the future.

As described on the foundation’s website:

Stiftung Mercator is one of the largest private foundations in Germany. It pursues clearly defined objectives in its thematic clusters of integration, climate change and arts education and it achieves these objectives with a combination of socio-political advocacy and practical work. Stiftung Mercator implements its own projects and supports external projects in its centres for science and humanities, education and international affairs. It takes an entrepreneurial, professional and international approach to its work.

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This recap comes from ArtDaily.com (note added 1 April 2012) . . .

With a joint ceremony on March 25th 2012, Cornelia Pieper, Minister of State in the Foreign Office, and Zhao Shaohua, Deputy Minister of Culture for the People’s Republic of China, officially concluded the exhibition The Art of the Enlightenment at the National Museum of China. For the past year the exhibition has been on view in Beijing. So far, more than 450,000 visitors have attended. . . .

The full article is available here»

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