Glitz of an entirely different kind, concept and culture - light years away from modern inaugural pageantry - graced the National Gallery of Art Tuesday. A pity that staff and sponsors couldn't sell tickets for the show.
A gala reception for the East Wing's current blockbuster exhibit, "The Splendors of Imperial China," began with an "Auspicious Blessing Ceremony" featuring an ancient Chinese dragon dance performed by students from Wheaton's Tai Yim Kung Fu School and included a buffet with dishes from the 18th-century imperial era.
Gallery trustee Louise Whitney Mellon opened the evening by giving the dragon a red envelope containing currency and a leaf of bok choy, which the dragon ritually chews and spits out. This is said to bring good luck and is a main attraction at all prestigious Chinese events, which this most certainly was.
The occasion, like the exhibit itself, was way over the top in aesthetic appeal and with a heavy-duty guest list high on ambassadors, top contributors and institutional heads.
The 476 pieces chosen from Taipei's National Palace Museum's holdings of some 700,000 works of art mark only the third time that the Western public has been able to view any part of the collection. In the words of Philippe de Montebello, director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the exhibit originated, viewers are treated to "an unsurpassed view of Chinese civilization's evolution from its inception through the 18th century."
The exhibit is important back home as well "because people in Taiwan have not realized that what we own is appreciated by the world," Jason Hu, Taipei's economic and cultural representative, said in a private moment. "It's great to share part of Chinese civilization; normally you keep everything in your museum. These are only a few treasures on display."
Students moved rhythmically underneath a colorful dragon costume while others played drums, cymbals and a gong, leading guests from the National Gallery's central court down the grand staircase to the exhibit's entrance where formal remarks were offered by Chin Hsiao-yi, director of the National Palace Museum, Earl "Rusty" Powell III, director of the …