Va Museum of Fine Arts to showcase China’s ‘Forbidden City’ exhibit

Va Museum of Fine ArtsBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Forbidden City: Imperial Treasures from the Palace Museum, Beijing will be on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) beginning October 18, 2014, and running through January 11, 2015. VMFA was chosen as the first art museum in America to enter into a collaborative project with the Palace Museum in Beijing China.

The exhibit, according to VMFA Director Alex Nyerges, will feature nearly 200 works of art from the collection of the Palace Museum including 50 paintings by court officials and court artists including silk paintings depicting important historic events.  Featured works include paintings, sculptures, costumes, furniture, gold and silver, jade, lacquer, and other decorative arts. These artworks represent the imperial collection from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties with a focus on the mid-Qing dynasty. In addition, the exhibition features a number of works drawn from VMFA’s collection. Forbidden City addresses how Qing rulers incorporated their Manchu nomadic traditions, adopted cultural elements from ethnic groups, and endeavored to create a diverse government and maintain societal harmony.

In exchange for the exhibit, VMFA’s Fabergé collection, part of its permanent collection, will travel to China in May 2016 for display at the Palace Museum in Beijing, the first American museum to do so.

The Forbidden City exhibit is organized in four sections:

  • Rituals of the Qing Court features 90 objects including paintings depicting historic events and life-size horses, ritual musical instruments, and a setting of throne room furniture. The exhibition addresses the function of the outer court, and the important roles of various rituals.
  1. Court Arts in the Inner Court illustrates about 60 artworks, including portraits of emperors and empresses, furniture, and decorative objects. The exhibition explores how the prestige of the emperors, cultural exchange, and trade with the West influenced the distinctive art forms and styles developed by imperial workshops.
  1. Court Paintings offers 20 court paintings that depict animals, figures in landscapes, and botanical scenes. The exhibition explores symbolism in these works and addresses how Qing rulers reinstituted court painters in the 18th century, in keeping with their Ming predecessors.
  1. Religion in the Palace features 30 works ranging from sculpture and thangkas to sutras, pagodas, and offerings. The exhibition reveals the Buddhist and Daoist activities in the palace and provides a glimpse into spiritual life in the inner court.

The exhibition offers a broad perspective of imperial China through evocative gallery design, graphic materials, architectural models, and video. Dramatic images of the palace and amazing architectural scale will take visitors on a simulated journey into the buildings and grounds, once forbidden to the general public.  A number of interior designs modeled after the inner quarters of the palace will provide a unique experience for visitors. VMFA will be the first American museum to use 3D printing technology to create a scaled model of the Forbidden City. One model will be on display in the exhibition and another will be output during the exhibition in VMFA’s Atrium.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a treasure for Virginia’s citizens and visitors and is located in Richmond. Ranked one of the top comprehensive museums in the country, it is open 365 days a year and general admission is always free. It’s permanent collection includes more than 33,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of world history.

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