Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The age of enlightenment & the luxury goods trade

The new National Museum of China has opened behind its colonnaded façade overlooking Tiananmen Square. Only the Louvre is bigger. Visitors are restricted to 8000 a day.

The Stalinist building was remodelled by the German architects Gerkan, Mark and Partners, well versed in the design of sports stadia, airports and railway stations. Exhibits have been recruited from museums all over China.

The exhibition entitled The Path to National Resurrection guides the visitor from the nineteenth-century western impositions upon China to the Beijing Olympics. (I’m not sure whether there is an interactive display of Chinese holding of US debt.) There is one picture of a smiling Mao and one of the events of 1989 with Deng Xiaoping congratulating the troops enforcing martial law. There is no room for the Great Famine, the effects of the Cultural Revolution or the protests in Tiananmen Square.

The first loan exhibition was on the Age of Enlightenment with 600 works of eighteenth-century art from Berlin, Munich and Dresden. At the opening the German foreign minister “spoke of the ideals expressed by art, such as respect for human dignity, the rule of law and individual freedoms. Such ideas, he added, led to the fall of the Berlin wall, but the Chinese media made no mention of his comments”.

Future visiting exhibitions from the west are under discussion. The luxury goods group LVMH ("world leader in luxury" - imagine the burden if you had to worry whether or not the luxury you were enjoying were world class - "LVMH carries out a number of initiatives through its commitment to protecting the environment" - how wonderful to have Keith Richards and Annie Leibovitz come to your aid to bestow social and cultural gravitas on a collection of bags, booze and scent) has started talks about an exhibition on the Vuitton brand and travel. It is expected to occupy four rooms and last two or three months, according to the LVMH spokesperson in Shanghai. Rumours that the newly formed British Furniture Designer Makers Association are to hold an exhibition there are unconfirmed.

wooing China?

“With its prestige, ambitious aims and vast exhibition space begging to be filled, museums from all over the world are courting the Chinese mogul. But this may not be a simple task. As one expert said: ‘The editorial line of Chinese museums is not always crystal clear.’"