Emperor’s riches show heads to Houston museum
Houston is getting a rare treat: a chance to see the art collections of nine of the richest and most powerful Chinese spanning more than 800 years.
Emperors’ Treasures: Chinese Art From the National Palace Museum, Taipei, will open on Sunday and run until the end of January at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH). More than 160 works of art from the renowned collections of the National Palace Museum in Taipei will be on display.
James Watt, curator, Met
The exhibition feature a selection of paintings, calligraphy, bronzes and decorative arts collected by eight emperors and one empress who ruled between the early 12th century Song Dynasty and the early 20th century Qing Dynasty.
Gary Tinterow, director of the MFAH, recalled his visit to Taiwan three years ago with the goal of securing a promise to exhibit the palace art in Houston.
“We are grateful to the National Palace Museum, Taipei. It has some 600,000 objects, all coming from imperial collections once housed in the imperial palace in the Forbidden City in Beijing. They are unmatched in rarity and scope. It’s a tremendous gift for us to enjoy some of the pieces for the next three months,” Tinterow said.
Last time the artwork from the National Palace Museum visited the United States was in 1996, when an exhibit was held in New York and Washington. This year’s exhibit was first held in San Francisco, and will visit Houston for the first time.
Jasper Lin, director of National Palace Museum, said that the objects give audiences an idea of the artistic tastes of the nine imperial figures.
“They represent the history of Chinese art development. Different historical backgrounds and political and religious ideas are reflected in those art objects,” commented Lin.
Lin said that the Houston exhibit was extended for about a month until Chinese New Year. “It costs a lot of money for the art to travel to Houston. We hope to give people more time to enjoy them,” Lin said.
James Watt, curator emeritus and former chairman of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is an organizing curator of this exhibition. “The artworks and objects displayed in Emperors’ Treasures celebrate the cultural contributions of these significant imperial rulers, illustrating their roles as distinguished patrons of art, and often, as gifted artists.”
Watt said that the first exhibit of the imperial collections in the West was London in 1935. China’s imminent war with Japan led to the cancellation of a US exhibit.
“The London exhibition had a huge impact and inspired quite a few to become scholars studying Chinese art. One of them was William Willets. He was originally an engineer. He was so inspired by that exhibit that he went on to become a well-known Chinese art scholar. That exhibition produced a generation of Chinese art scholars,” Watt said.
In 1963, in appreciation of the US helping raise funds to build the National Palace Museum, some of the best pieces were exhibited in the US, said Watt.
The artwork ... celebrate the cultural contributions of these significant imperial rulers.”
James Watt (left), curator emeritus and former chairman of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, talks about the uniqueness of Gourd Vase With Design of Sc rolling
Lotus made of mold-grown gourd from the Qing Dynasty (1644– 1911) at the exhibit preview of Emperors’Treasures on Wednesday in Houston.