Sep 7, 2023 - News

Landmark China exhibit arrives at Cleveland Museum of Art

A Chinese ink on paper drawing from the 15th century featuring a village on the banks of a mountain river

Twelve Views of Tiger Hill, Suzhou: The Thousand Buddha Halland the Pagoda of the "Cloudy Cliff" Monastery, after 1490. Shen Zhou (Chinese, 1427–1509). Photo: Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art

A new landmark exhibition opens this weekend at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Why it matters: "China's Southern Paradise: Treasures from the Lower Yangzi Delta" is the first exhibit in the United States to showcase the Chinese region of Jiangnan, encompassing the lands below the Yangzi River.

  • CMA curator Clarissa von Spee spent nearly eight years organizing the exhibit, which includes more than 200 objects from 40-plus international museums and collections.

Between the lines: Though China has long been guarded about how its art and history are portrayed abroad, CMA's international reputation and its existing significant collection of Chinese works laid the groundwork for the partnership.

  • The exhibit includes rare prints and sculptures on loan from seven Chinese museums.

The intrigue: Multiple objects, including large-scale multicolor prints from the canal city of Suzhou, west of Shanghai, are on view to the American public for the first time ever.

What they're saying: "So much of what we associate with traditional China today — such as rice, silk and lacquer production, color printing, garden culture, landscape painting — either originated or flourished in the Jiangnan region," von Spee said.

  • "To bring these rare, unique treasures together from around the world provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visitors."

💭 Sam's thought bubble: I got a preview of the exhibit yesterday and was blown away, not only by the objects, but by the detailed supplemental material that brought the region's history and geography into focus — a testament to CMA's curators and staff.

Zoom out: Given the rising political tensions between China and the United States, the museum's exhibit is a chance for American visitors to understand and appreciate China's rich cultural history.

  • "It couldn't come at a better time," CMA's marketing director Todd Mesek told Axios.

If you go: The exhibit opens Sunday and runs through Jan. 7, 2024. Tickets are $15 ($12 for students and seniors).


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