Glimpse of ge­nius

Pages from Leonardo da Vinci’s note­books on dis­play in Beijing

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at linqi@chi­

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is revered not only for such works as the Mona Lisa and The Last Sup­per, but the “Re­nais­sance Man” is also famed for his work in en­gi­neer­ing, op­tics, ar­chi­tec­ture, geom­e­try and astron­omy.

The scope and depth of Da Vinci’s in­ter­ests is cel­e­brated through the Ital­ian-lan­guage Codex At­lanti­cus (At­lantic Codex).

It is a col­lec­tion of 1,119 pages, in 12 vol­umes, which fea­tures Da Vinci’s draw­ings and notes of his work in var­i­ous sci­en­tific dis­ci­plines.

The Codex At­lanti­cus is now at the Bi­b­lioteca Am­brosiana, a li­brary in Mi­lan.

Sixty orig­i­nal pages will soon be dis­played at the new Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity Art Mu­seum from Sept 11 through March 19, 2017.

This dis­play will make the largest ex­hi­bi­tion of the Codex At­lanti­cus out­side Italy.

How­ever, this is not the first time that pages from the en­cy­clo­pe­dia have been sent abroad.

An ear­lier ex­hi­bi­tion in Sin­ga­pore saw 26 pages be­ing put on­show; and an event in Ja­pan re­ceived 20 pages, says Yang Dongjiang, deputy di­rec­tor of the TAM, as the mu­seum calls it­self.

At the Ts­inghua ex­hi­bi­tion, Dia­log with Leonardo da Vinci, a dozen TV screens will also show 3-D dis­plays of Da Vinci’s air­craft and other me­chan­i­cal in­ven­tions.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is among the 11 shows be­ing held to mark the of­fi­cial open­ing of TAM on Sept 11.

De­signed by Swiss ar­chi­tect Mario Botta, the TAM oc­cu­pies 5,000 squareme­ters at the east cor­ner of the Ts­inghua cam­pus, mak­ing it the big­gest col­lege mu­seum in China.

Be­fore the TAM, Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity, which was founded in 1911, had a room to ex­hibit ar­chae­o­log­i­cal relics, which was opened in 1926.

It was not un­til 1999 that the Cen­tral Academy of Arts and De­sign was merged with the uni­ver­sity, and a mu­seum was pro­posed to house and dis­play the CAAD’s col­lec­tion of fine art and an­tiques as­sem­bled since its es­tab­lish­ment in 1956.

Mean­while, the plan for the mu­seum got a boost af­ter a do­na­tion of 200 mil­lion yuan ($30 mil­lion) in 2013 from Huang Ru­lun, a self-made real es­tate de­vel­oper and chair­man of the Cen­tury Golden Resources Group.

The TAM cur­rently has more than 13,000 Chi­nese paint­ings, cal­lig­ra­phy works, tex­tiles, porce­lain pieces, bronze ware, Ming Dy­nasty (13681644)-style fur­ni­ture and other works of art, which mainly come from the CAAD’s col­lec­tion and pub­lic do­na­tions.

A se­lec­tion of the works will be dis­played at the up­com­ing shows be­ing held to mark the TAM’s of­fi­cial open­ing.

Speak­ing about the TAM, Feng Yuan, its di­rec­tor, says the mu­seum is a real “palace” whose ar­chi­tec­ture ri­vals other prom­i­nent mu­se­ums in the coun­try.

He adds that one of his goals is to keep the mu­seum at­trac­tive for vis­i­tors in the long run.

Speak­ing to jour­nal­ists at a media pre­view late last month, Feng, who­ran the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China be­tween 2004 and 2005, says many mu­se­ums grad­u­ally lose vis­i­tors be­cause they don’t ro­tate their dis­plays, and also be­cause they lack sus­tain­able fi­nan­cial sup­port and staff mem­bers who are ex­pe­ri­enced in mu­seum management.

Re­fer­ring to com­pe­ti­tion from other mu­se­ums, he says: “Of course we can’t ri­val the Palace Mu­seum or the Cap­i­tal Mu­seum in col­lec­tions. But we can ex­change items with them.”

As for the TAM’s up­com­ing ex­hi­bi­tions, they will fea­ture bronze ware from the Shang (c.16th cen­tury-11th cen­tury BC) an dZ hou(c .11 th cen­tury - 256 BC) dy­nas­ties on loan from the Na­tional Mu­seum of China, and paint­ings from the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China.

Feng says the TAM is also reach­ing out to col­lege­for aca­demic co­op­er­a­tion and, hope­fully, for ex­hi­bi­tions in the fu­ture.

“The mu­seum should not only be an al­ter­na­tive class­room for stu­dents, but must also be a land­mark in Beijing, which peo­ple from across the coun­try will come and visit,” he adds.

To this end, he says, the mu­seum will dis­play a va­ri­ety of art­work — from an­cient to mod­ern and from home and abroad — to en­gage a var­ied au­di­ence.

As for other events mark­ing the TAM’s of­fi­cial open­ing, there will be an ex­hi­bi­tion of mul­ti­me­dia in­stal­la­tions in which in­ter­na­tional artists use dig­i­tal technology to cre­ate vis­ual ef­fects.

Feng also says the mu­seum will have a venue de­voted to de­vel­op­ments in con­tem­po­rary art.

The TAM was founded by the Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion, and Feng says the foun­da­tion will soon set up a coun­cil and ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee for the mu­seum.

Sep­a­rately, the mu­seum’s aca­demic com­mit­tee now com­prises cu­ra­tors, pro­fes­sor sand artists, in­clud­ing Chen Lyusheng, deputy di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Mu­seum of China, and Xu Bing, an artist and a pro­fes­sor at Beijing’s Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts.

Mean­while, de­spite the buzz sur­round­ing the open­ing of the TAM, col­lege mu­se­ums are not a very com­mon sight in China.

The only com­pa­ra­ble in­sti­tu­tion is Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity’ s Mu­seum of Art and Ar­chae­ol­ogy named af­ter its spon­sor Arthur M. Sack­ler, an Amer­i­can en­tre­pre­neur and phi­lan­thropist.

It boasts a col­lec­tion of draw­ings and prints of Western masters, such as Raphael and Pi­casso do­nated by vis­it­ing US pro­fes­sor Don­ald Stone.

“Ev­ery ma­jor uni­ver­sity in the United States has an art mu­seum ... Stu­dents can just go over, en­joy the beau­ti­ful pieces of art and then go back to their stud­ies,” Stone says.

But things could be chang­ing in China.

Last year sawthe open­ing of the Wan­lin Art Mu­seum at Wuhan Uni­ver­sity in Cen­tral China’s Hubei prov­ince.

The mu­seum was set up thanks to Chen Dong­sheng, pres­i­dent of Taikang Life In­sur­ance Cor­pand China Guardian Auc­tions, who do­nated 120 mil­lion yuan for the project.


The Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity Art Mu­seum on the cam­pus of Ts­inghua in Beijing will open on Sept 11 with 11 shows.

Above: Pages fromCodex At­lanti­cus are among the ex­hibits of Dialog­with­Leonar­do­daVinci to mark the open­ing of the Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity Art Mu­seum. Be­low and top right: A paint­ing by con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese artist Pang Xun­qin and a Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) bowl with high stemare among the dis­plays.

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