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China: 5,000 Years, Innovation and Transformation in the Arts
Contributions by Helmut Brinker, James Cahill, Elizabeth Childs-Johnson, Patricia Ebrey, Sherman Lee, and Zhang Wenbin
Published in 1998
504 pages, fully illustrated
English and Spanish editions
The exhibition China: 5,000 Years, Innovation and Transformation in the Arts opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in early 1998 and traveled to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in the same year. It was one of the first exhibitions held in the newly opened Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and marks the Guggenheim Foundation's dedication to the study and exhibition of Asian art. The catalogue accompanying the exhibition is an invaluable resource for scholars of Chinese culture and art. It includes sixteen essays by scholars of Chinese culture, including Wu Hung, Helmut Brinker, James Cahill, Elizabeth Childs-Johnson, Patricia Ebrey, Sherman Lee, and Zhang Wenbin. The catalogue is divided by various mediums represented in Chinese art—jade, bronze, lacquer, textiles, grave goods, ceramics, sculpture, calligraphy, and painting—with an introductory section on Chinese cultural history. At 504 pages, the exhibition catalogue provides a comprehensive overview of Chinese art and its transformations spanning 5,000 years. Color reproductions of selected works and a list of objects in the exhibition are also included.
The reader will by now be aware that this is an exhibition which stresses the art of an ancient culture with particular relation to innovation and creativity. It is not meant to emphasize the historical, sociological, ethnographical, or literary aspects of Chinese culture. But so compelling are the achievements of these artists and artisans that their creations illumine the civilization in which they were produced—its material options and constraints, its social obligations and expectations, its moral compulsions and freedoms, its aesthetic preferences and boundaries. These works appear before us as tangible witnesses to China’s cultural history.