Rare Chinese paintings exhibited at Museum of ArtANN ARBOR — "The Orchid Pavilion Gathering" is the first major exhibition of one of the most acclaimed collections at the University of Michigan's Museum of Art. The exhibition runs Jan. 23 through March 26 in the Museum's West Gallery.Crane on a pine branch (detail) hanging scroll, ink and light color on silk, by Chang Ch'I (active 19th c.) Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911).Spanning nearly 900 years, the 60 works on view provide a rare opportunity to survey the rich tradition of painting in China. Large-scale exhibitions of Chinese paintings are exceedingly rare, both because of the fragility of the works involved and the unique display requirements of large hanging or hand scrolls. Many of the paintings in the exhibition have never before been shown in the Museum galleries.This exhibition, five years in the planning, features rarely seen works of great subtlety and charm. Landscapes, scenes of animals and flowers, and poignant vignettes of scholars and maidens trace the evolution of Chinese painting from the Southern Sung Dynasty (1126-1280) to the Chinese republic of the early 20th century. This art has traditionally been considered a conceptual vehicle for expressing mood, situation, sentiment, and emotion. The utmost goal of many Chinese artists was to unify the mind and soul of the viewer with nature; such a bonding was considered an intellectual and spiritual experience. The exhibition and accompanying publications are made possible by the Ford Motor Company.
In addition to the stories told by the paintings themselves, the exhibition tells an intriguing and somewhat unexpected history: how a small Midwestern art museum came to house a world-class collection of rare Chinese paintings. The Museum's substantial Chinese painting collection blossomed through the 1960s and '70s and today serves both scholars and students of Chinese painting, as well as the many visitors who travel to view the collection each year.
For many Western eyes, Chinese painting is mysterious territory. Exhibition organizer, Marshall Wu, the Museum's curator of Asian art, has taken great care to fully address and explain many of the tremendous cultural and language barriers that have in the past kept Western audiences from truly understanding and appreciating Chinese painting. The exhibition also marks the publication of an extensive, two-volume catalogue by Wu.
The Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. A $5 donation is suggested.
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In conjunction with "The Orchid pavilion Gathering," the following activities are available at the Museum:
Docents-led free tours of the exhibition Sundays at 2 p.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., beginning Thursday, Jan. 30. (No tour Thursday, Feb. 3). Contact the Museum for tour dates in March.
Gallery Talks: (Free) Thursday, Jan. 27, 12:10 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 6, 2 p.m. Curator of Asian Art Marshall Wu will give a personal overview and introduction to "The Orchid Pavilion Gathering." (Free)
Lecture: Sunday, Jan. 30, 3 p.m., Museum Apse. Maxwell Hearn, head curator of Asian art at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, will speak on "Seeking the Self Amid Mountains and Waters: China's Human Landscape." Hearn's talk will address major innovations in Chinese landscape painting from the 10th to the 17th centuries, drawing on examples from major American collections and providing a lively and insightful perspective from which to view this exhibition. (Free)
"The Lantern Festival" A Celebration of Chinese Culture: Sunday, Feb. 20, 1-5 p.m., the date of the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival marking the end of the 15-day period celebrating the Chinese New Year. The Festival includes hands-on activities and performances to celebrate Chinese art and culture. (Free)
Exhibition Tour and Chinese Opera Lecture: Thursday,
Art Videos: (Free) During February, the Art Video program explores the art and culture of China. Videos are shown Wednesdays at 12:10 p.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. (No video on Thursday, Feb. 3).
Feb. 2: The Art Gallery in the Desert (55 min.) exploring the Gobi Desert cave art.
Feb. 9-10: Canal Boat to History (65 min.) Art and culture along China's Grand Canal.
Feb. 16-17: A Day on the Grand Canal with the Emperor of China (46 min.) David Hockney examines a 17th c. Chinese scroll.
Feb. 23-24: Ming Garden (30 min.) The Metropolitan Museum builds a traditional Chinese courtyard.
The U-M Museum of Art is located at 525 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1354. To contact the Museum's Events Hotline, call (734) 763-UMMA. Visit the Museum's Web site at www.umich.edu/~umma.