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The Splendors of Imperial China:
Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei
An unsurpassed survey of Chinese art treasures from one of the greatest collections in the world will be on view at the Asian Art Museum in Golden Gate Park from October 14 to December 8, 1996. Heralded by scholars and critics as the greatest exhibition of Chinese art ever presented in America, Splendors of Imperial China: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei spans over 4.000 years of Chinese history and features nearly 350 of the finest and most famous works from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, whose holdings are based on the personal collections of China's emperors. Included in the exhibition are priceless paintings, jades, bronzes, ceramics, textiles and lacquerware which were passed among China's imperial rulers from century to century.
"Museum audiences in New York and Chicago have been astonished by the beauty and depth of this exhibition," exclaimed Asian Art Museum Director Emily J. Sano. "San Francisco is extremely fortunate to serve as the exclusive West Coast venue for this historic presentation. It is unlikely that these works as a group will ever travel outside of Taiwan again."
Splendors of Imperial China has been organized by the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and is drawn entirely from the National Palace Museum, which possesses one of the world's richest and most renowned collections of Chinese art. On only two other occasions have exhibitions from the National Palace Museum been seen in the west - in London (1935-36) and in the United States (1961-62).
The works of art in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, are classified as national treasures; some have been passed down from dynasty to dynasty since the Northern Sung period (960-1127), the era when the foundation of the collection was amassed. The greater part of the Museum's vast collection entered the Palace during the reign of the Ch'ien-lung emperor (reigned 1736-95), and many of the objects, especially those in jade and bronze, are intimately connected with state rituals. Others have served as symbols of sovereign power such as the Emperor's jade seal, which in China is the equivalent of the crown of a European king.
Following the collapse of the Ch'ing dynasty in 1911 and the eventual expulsion of the last emperor from the Forbidden City in 1924, the Palace Museum opened in Peking in 1925. With the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the imminent danger of an assault on northern China, the government took measures to safeguard the treasures in the Palace Museum. A large group of the finest objects was carefully placed into wooden crates and shipped south, beginning a 30-year odyssey that took the art over thousands of miles by train, boat, truck, and even hand towed barge, usually under the most adverse wartime conditions. At war's end, the nearly 20,000 crates, which had been divided into several shipments to avoid detection, were reunited in Nanking for a brief period before Chiang Kai-shek moved a selection of them containing more than 600,000 pieces to Taiwan in 1949. It was another 16 years - during which time the collection was stored first in sugar warehouses and then in specially constructed tunnels, before the National Palace Museum, Taipei, opened in 1965 and the public was again able to see this legacy of Chinese civilization.
|8. Stem cup with dragon motif||9. Three leaves from Landscapes and Flowers||10. Celestial globe vase|
Visitors to the San Francisco presentation of Splendors will have the opportunity to view numerous works that have never been seen outside of China. Two life-size imperial portraits -- Portrait of Sung Jen-tsung (anonymous, 11th century) and Portrait of the Hungwu emperor (anonymous, 14th century), are among those showcased. The exhibition features a selection of the finest known examples of imperial ceramics from the Sung through Ch'ing periods, as well as stunning cloisonne, enamels, snuff bottles, and writing tools. Rare treasures in jade are complemented by an array of lacquerwares including boxes, trays, vases and screens. Of particular note are the exquisite treasure boxes of the Ch'ien-lung emperor that replicate in miniature his personal favorites from the imperial collection.
"In the future, when the Asian's permanent collection is reinstalled, those who have seen this remarkable exhibition will have many more opportunities to enjoy and appreciate spectacular Chinese art," said Asian Art Museum Curator of Chinese Art Dr. Michael Knight. "Fortunately for all of us in San Francisco, our founder Avery Brundage also had a magnificent eye."
Splendors of Imperial China opened to critical acclaim at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (March l9-May 19, 1996), and went on to impressive crowds at the Art Institute of Chicago (June 29-August 25, 1996). After showing in San Francisco, the exhibition will conclude its historic U.S. tour at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (January 27-April 6, 1997).
Two catalogues have been produced for this exhibition: Possessing the Past: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, by Wen C. Fong and James C.Y. Watt, is 664 pages with 600 illustrations; the full-color clothbound edition is available for 85.00. Splendors of Imperial China: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei. by Maxwell K. Hearn, is 144 pages with 119 illustrations and costs $30.00. In addition, an electronic catalogue on CD ROM is available for $30.00. All items may be purchased in advance through the Exhibition Kiosk at the Asian Art Museum: 415/379-8806/379-8807.
This exhibition been organized by the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
It is supported in part by The Henry Luce Foundation, The Starr Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Transportation assistance has been provided by China Airlines.
Support for local presentation has been generously provided in part by The Chase Manhattan Private Bank, the Bernard Osher Foundation, KGO-Newstalk AM 810, KGOTV Channel 7, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Grants for the Arts of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund.
all text and images © National Palace Museum, Taipei
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