V&A working in and with China
Collections & Galleries
The Victoria and Albert Museum possesses one of the most comprehensive and important collections of Chinese art outside East Asia. The V&A acquired its first group of Chinese artefacts in 1852. Today, the V&A Chinese collection amounts to over 15,000 objects, with fine examples from all branches of Chinese art including ceramics, jade, metalwork, lacquer, textiles, furniture, sculpture, ivory, bamboo, rhinoceros horn, glass, paintings, manuscripts and prints. The collection has particular strength in the applied arts of later dynastic China, after AD1500 and the V&A continues to collect actively in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with a focus on excellent examples of contemporary art and design. The V&A works actively with expert colleagues in leading Chinese museums to study and understand our collections.
V&A touring exhibitions in China
The V&A’s exhibition Splendours of India’s Royal Court will be shown at the Palace Museum from April to July 2013, following the exhibition Imperial Chinese Robes from the Forbidden City at the V&A in 2010.
Exhibitions presented in Chinese venues include the digital art exhibition Decode at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing and Indian Temple Sculpture at the Shanghai Museum, both in the second half of 2010. Other V&A exhibitions that have toured to China include The Golden Age of Couture at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in 2009, and A Century of Olympic Posters in the Capital Museum, Beijing (70,053 visitors) and the Liaoning Provincial Museum in Shenyang (140,626 visitors in 6 weeks) both in 2008.
From December 2008 to January 2009, the Vivienne Westwood exhibition was held at Artis Tree in Hong Kong with over 51,000 visitors in two months.
China Exhibitions at the V&A
The V&A has a lively, varied and important series of exhibitions related to China. We are currently hard at work preparing an ambitious exhibition of Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings: 600-1900 to be shown at the Museum from October 2013 to January 2014. The show will be the first UK overview of the Chinese painting tradition since the International Exhibition of Chinese Art at the Royal Academy in 1935.
In late 2010, the V&A showed Imperial Chinese Robes from the Forbidden City which attracted over 47,000 visitors. In March 2008 the V&A opened China Design Now, a ground-breaking exhibition that showed the most exciting design and architecture projects being created in contemporary China. The exhibition, sponsored by HSBC, presented significant works created by local and international designers of graphics, fashion, architecture and beyond, and achieved a high profile among young creatives and mainstream media inside China.
Recent displays at the V&A related to China include Porcelain City: Jingdezhen, The Silent Traveller (a selection of work by artist and writer Chiang Yee) and Dropping the Urn: Ceramic Works 5000 BC to AD 2010. In September 2005 the V&A opened the exhibition Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, closing in January 2006 with over 33,500 visitors.
In 2010, the V&A signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Palace Museum to support our exchange of exhibitions. The V&A also has Memoranda of Understanding with the National Museum of China and the Capital Museum. The V&A has developing relationships with other institutions in China. Contacts between the Museum and Chinese museums have ranged from collections research, textile conservation and digitisation to photography and public programmes. The V&A also welcomes many visitors from Chinese museums. The V&A participate in the British Council China-UK: Connections through Culture programme, so we regularly receive a number of senior colleagues from institutions. The V&A enjoys a good working relationship with the Embassy for the People’s Republic of China in London and recently welcomed the Chinese Ambassador, Liu Xiaoming and his wife, Hu Pinghua, (April 2012) to the Museum. Madame Chou Mei-Ching, first Lady of Taiwan visited the V&A as well on November, 2011.
We hope to continue to develop strong and sustainable cultural relations between the UK and China.
During his visit to Beijing in 2010, the British Prime Minister Rt. Hon David Cameron MP announced plans for a major festival of British culture, UK Now, in China in 2012. As a contribution to the festival, the V&A is working on a major exhibition, Passion for Porcelain: Ceramics Masterpieces from the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, jointly organised with the British Museum and the National Museum of China (NMC) which will take place from 22 June 2012 to 6 January 2013 at the NMC. A catalogue will be published in English and Chinese in two separate volumes.
Other V&A exhibition plans for 2012 in China include the exhibition Water into Art of British watercolours from the V&A collection, to be shown at Shenzhen Museum from August to December 2012.
People to People Dialogue
The V&A was the chosen venue for the first UK-China Summit, People to People Dialogue (April 2012) an annual high-level dialogue, alongside the Strategic Dialogue and Economic and Financial Dialogue, in the top tier of UK-China bilateral exchanges. The Dialogue provides an opportunity to develop closer ties with China in areas where the UK excels, including culture, the creative industries and education. Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport and Madame Liu Yandong, State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China, lead the Dialogue. Within this context, the V&A signed an agreement to work with the National Museum of China and the British Museum during 2012 to present an exhibition of ceramic masterpieces as part of the UK Now 2012 Festival in China.
The Museum 2011, Taiwan
The V&A was a key speaker in The Museum 2011 ~ Building Identity: The Making of National Museums and Identity Politics, Taiwan (November 2011). This conference took place at the National Museum of History in Taipei and brought together museum practitioners, museum studies academics, designers and architects to consider the design of national museums through an exploration of the roles, politics and architectures of national institutions. In the context of this project the Museum had a partnership with Council for Cultural Affairs Taiwan, National Museum of History Taiwan and the National Taipei University of Education.
Because of its unique links to the Great Exhibition of 1851, the V&A was active in marking Shanghai Expo 2010. Designs for the British Pavilion were displayed at the V&A in 2009. We are also proud to have worked with the Shanghai Expo Bureau, Shanghai Museum and the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) towards two exhibitions for the Shanghai Expo. The magnificent oil painting by Henry Courtney Selous, The Opening of the Great Exhibition (1851) was among over 30 loans to the Shanghai Expo Museum which, to the end of August 2010, had received 1,620,000 visitors. Masterpieces from the V&A collection of Indian sculpture were displayed in Indian Temple Sculpture at the Shanghai Museum, an exhibition organised in collaboration with the British Museum.
Chinese audiences in London
The V&A has an active Chinese Community Programme with a particular focus on Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn festival times. Recently, our focus has shifted towards contemporary China, with weekend events celebrating the contemporary scene in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. The fashion designer Ma Ke presented her work in Fashion in Motion at the V&A, in May 2008. Collaboration with Yung Ho Chang, a leading Chinese architect, on an instllation of a series of gigantic screens in the John Madejski Garden resulted in an installation from June to September 2008.
The V&A is participating in a two-part documentary on the exhibition and the production of Chinese porcelain for export. It will be released on CCTV9 (China Central Television) following the opening of Passion for Porcelain. The project was co-ordinated jointly by V&A and British Museum staff and filming took place at the V&A from 14 to 20 March 2012.
Learning and Audience Engagement
The V&A offers a year long adult education course entitled Arts of Asia 1500–1900. The course offers participants the opportunity to study the rich diversity of artistic traditions found within this geographical area and discover how artists and craftspeople refined the arts of painting and calligraphy, architecture, ceramics, metalwork, textiles and carpets, carving and sculpture. The third term focuses on China.
The V&A’s prize-winning website includes rich information in the Chinese language about current exhibitions, and about museum collections and activities relating to China, including Shanghai Expo activities. Over 6.7 million visits to the Chinese language web pages were made between April 2009 and March 2010. The V&A recently launched a dedicated Chinese website.
V&A publications on Chinese themes are extremely diverse and include a study in Chinese by Ming Wilson of early collectors of Chinese art, a translation into Chinese of the Vivienne Westwood exhibition catalogue, and a contribution by textiles curator Helen Persson to a collaborative volume on medieval textiles from Central Asia in the Stein collection. Chinese Export Ceramics, co-authored by Rose Kerr, Luisa Mengoni and Ming Wilson will be published by the Shanghai Guhua Chubanshe.
- Ming Wilson, Imperial Chinese Robes (V&A)
- Ming Wilson, Chinese Jades (V&A)
- Verity Wilson, Chinese textiles (V&A)
- Stacey Pierson, Chinese Ceramics (V&A)
- Kerr, Mengoni & Wilson, Chinese Export Ceramics (V&A)
- Rose Kerr, Song Dinasty Ceramics (V&A)
- Yueh-Siang Chang, V&A Pattern: Chinese Textiles (V&A)
- Zhang Hongxing & Lauren Parker, eds., China Design Now (V&A)
- Claire Wilcox, Vivienne Westwood (V&A/Chinese version)