To the Shanghai Museum, located in one of the world’s greatest cosmopolises, international exchanges and cooperation are essential. Now, we have launched an attempt, with the Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet as our partner, to host an exhibition themed with Chinese and European porcelain and their cultural exchanges, both from a new perspective and via a new mode of narration in the setting of the Belt and Road Initiative.
At the end of the 15th century, with new routes found for sea traffic between Europe and Asia, the landscape of trading between East and West began to change. In the Age of Exploration, whose influence swept the entire globe, trade and exchanges of various kinds increased on a daily basis. Porcelain, one of the most Chinese commodities, was sold overseas in huge quantities. Its sales witnessed not only the booming trade between China and Europe in the Ming and Qing dynasties but also the exchanges of imagery, design, technology, and ideas between the peoples concerned. Porcelain, in the cultural sense, is a medium for the dialogues and interactions between East and West. It is also through this medium that the current exhibition tries to explore the world trade and cross-cultural exchanges of those days.
The exhibition consists of three chapters. In “Transportation between China and the West,” the exported porcelain outlines, temporally, the trade and exchanges between China and Europe from the 16th to the 18th century and, spatially, the development of sea routes and traffic networks. “Fusion between China and the West” shows in detail how Chinese porcelain integrated into and helped to shape European daily life, aesthetic and taste, decoration and design, and fashion trends through paintings and porcelain that was painted, mounted, modified, or intended as furnishings in Europe so that today, we may know more about the contact and combination between China and the West in pragmatic needs, aesthetic, and design. In “Encounter between China and the West” is found the integration of art and craft brought about by the trade and exchanges. With carefully curated overseas imitations of Chinese porcelain or porcelain made in China with inspirations from overseas, the cross-fertilisation is illustrated of kiln technologies between East and West: China’s craftsmanship has contributed substantially to the world’s material civilisation. Meanwhile, the concepts and thoughts behind the images are explored through the exotic imaginings from the porcelain on display.
The theme of the exhibition is the integration of East and West in an early phase of the globalisation. The exhibition itself is also the result from the integration of efforts made by museums around the globe. As the COVID-19 pandemic is going on, more than ten institutions in seven countries, namely, France, Portugal, the UK, the Netherlands, the US, Switzerland, and China have worked hard with the Shanghai Museum to overcome barriers so that art can hold our world together and that this remarkable achievement of global integration has been made possible. Arguably, this exhibition has been the most inclusive and complicated project ever executed since the outbreak of the pandemic, and it has turned out to be the fine fruit of international cooperation among a galaxy of museums the world over.
We hereby express our profound gratitude to all the institutions and authorities concerned for joining and supporting the exhibition. It is our firm belief that since museums collect and display items that bear witness to the progress of the human race, they have each and every reason to be the forerunners in global cultural contact, to promote exchanges and inspirations between civilisations, and to help to build a community with a shared future for mankind. With our concerted efforts, barriers will eventually be broken down, and the “fog and filthy air” be swept away. Join us, right now!