Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Chinese Museums Open to the World ; Officials Find That Art Is a Welcome Ambassador for a Country on the Rise

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Chinese Museums Open to the World ; Officials Find That Art Is a Welcome Ambassador for a Country on the Rise

Article excerpt

Leading Chinese museums are increasingly staging exhibitions at art centers across Europe, part of a wider cultural metamorphosis.

While the declining financial fortunes of the euro zone are causing most of Europe to look with envy on China's rising economic power, in terms of art, at least, the East is looking West.

Leading Chinese museums are increasingly staging exhibitions at art centers across Europe, part of a wider cultural metamorphosis aimed at attracting more outward-looking Chinese youths, becoming more global in terms of exchanges, laying the groundwork for Chinese collections to be shown, in return, across the world.

The move to look abroad for art has also been prompted by a new willingness in China to highlight cultures across the continents and the centuries. The National Museum of China, for example, one of the great Stalinist structures built in Beijing to celebrate the first decade of Communist Party rule, marked its new incarnation after an extensive renovation with an extensive show on the European Enlightenment.

The year-long exhibition, "The Art of the Enlightenment," staged in partnership with the Berlin State Museums, the Dresden State Art Collections and the Bavarian State Picture Collections, brought hundreds of works to the eastern edge of Tiananmen Square.

During the exhibition, which ended March 31, Socialist Realist paintings of revolutionary leaders that are part of the Chinese museum's permanent collection were displayed alongside marble statues of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and early European clockwork models of the solar system. German and Chinese art scholars also held a series of dialogues that allowed the public to join a freewheeling discourse on subjects like the Enlightenment and China.

"Stepping up our staging of foreign art exhibitions and holding public dialogues with art experts from across the world is helping the museum become more international, more interactive and more popular," said Chen Yu, the curator of the Enlightenment show, which attracted about four million visitors.

A short distance due west along the Avenue of Eternal Peace, China's most prestigious boulevard, the Capital Museum is likewise expanding its exchanges with museums worldwide. Guo Xiaoling, a professor of world history who returned to Beijing after teaching at the University of Massachusetts and now heads the museum, said he had been shuttling between European capitals to coordinate future exhibitions.

Coming shows include a retrospective on the British architect Richard Rogers, which opens next month and runs through September. Other European initiatives by Mr. Guo include his transforming the Capital Museum into an ancient Greek city-state in 2008, when the Athens-based National Archaeological Museum displayed classical sculptures, painted clay vessels and other artifacts to mark China's first staging of the Olympic Games.

"Every year the museum will stage several exhibitions from abroad," he said. "These foreign museum exhibitions are helping young Chinese people become more global."

At the same time, the government is pressing China's leading museums to raise their international stature by sending more exhibitions abroad. …

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