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Exhibition launch: A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese Art

Fan D'ian, Chen Yuming, Dennis Richardson and Andrew Sayers, 29 September 2011

ANDREW SAYERS: My name is Andrew Sayers and I am the director of the National Museum of Australia. On behalf of the Council of the National Museum of Australia represented this evening by Professor Andrea Hull, deputy chair of council, I would like to welcome you all to the opening of A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese art. I should begin by advising all guests that this evening’s event is being recorded for audio and video on demand for museum related purposes.

Your Excellency Mr Chen Yuming, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, and Ms Bai Ziaomei; Mr Ke Yasha, Minister Counsellor for Culture, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China; Mr Fan Di’an, Director of the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), Mr Ma Shulin, Deputy Director of the National Art Museum of China and Mr Hu Wei, Deputy Director of the National Art Museum of China; Ms Xu Lian, associate editor of the Chinese Culture Daily in the People’s Republic of China; Ms Shi Yan, news producer CCTV, People’s Republic of China; Ms Li Wennan, vice manager, department of public relations for the Ministry of Culture; Mr Dennis Richardson, Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Mr Tim Lane, Chief Advisor, China-Australia Relations, Rio Tinto; and Mr Mark O’Neill, Chief Advisor, Government Relations Australia, Rio Tinto - your excellencies, artists, distinguished guests, guests who have travelled from interstate and overseas, ladies and gentlemen.

I should like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the country on which the National Museum of Australia stands and on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders past and present. In addition to acknowledging the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, I would like to acknowledge the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, the National Art Museum of China, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the sponsors of the exhibition, Rio Tinto. We are very pleased to have Rio Tinto as a sponsor for the exhibition. We are grateful for their contribution not only to A New Horizon but for their overall support of the Year of Chinese Culture in Australia, and we look forward to an ongoing partnership.

The National Museum of Australia is delighted to be a partner with the National Art Museum of China in the presentation of A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese art, an examination that examines the art of China since 1949. The exhibition is the second stage of a major collaboration between our two museums. The first part of that collaboration was the display of important Aboriginal paintings from the Western Desert from the National Museum of Australia’s collection. That exhibition was shown at the National Art Museum of China in 2010. It was seen and enjoyed a large number of Chinese art lovers.

The exhibition of Aboriginal art in Beijing was a part of Imagine Australia: The Year of Australia in China, a focus that included the showcase of Australia at the Shanghai Expo. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade supported the Year of Australia in China, and the current exhibition is part of Experience China: The Year of Chinese Culture in Australia.

Art lovers in Australia are becoming quite familiar with the art of present-day China. However, the art of China in the decades from the 1950s to the 1980s is not as well known. None of the works in the current exhibition has been included in exhibitions in Australia before.

When discussing the exhibition with my colleague at NAMOC, Director Mr Fan Di’an, I suggested that this exhibition would be an ideal way to introduce Australian audiences to some of the artists of the latter part of the twentieth century who have been influential within China. As a result of the efforts of Mr Fan and his team, this exhibition will be a valuable contribution to Australia’s understanding of China’s visual culture and serves as an introduction to some key artists working in China in what is universally acknowledged as one of the most exciting and diverse contemporary art environments anywhere in the world.

A particular strength of this exhibition is that it includes a number of major works of Chinese twentieth-century painting and significant works in diverse mediums that had a major impact when they were first exhibited in China. Furthermore, it comprises works by artists who have reached positions of high authority in the teaching academies and art institutions of the country.

I would like to extend our sincere thanks to the staff of NAMOC and the Chinese Ministry of Culture with whom we have worked in a spirit of friendly cooperation to develop this exhibition.

I would also like to acknowledge and congratulate the highly professional team at the National Museum of Australia who have worked hard to make the exhibition look splendid. It is a feat of logistics, planning and design. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work in Beijing and Canberra that has gone into the handsome exhibition catalogue.

It now gives me great pleasure to welcome my colleague and co-host for this evening Mr Fan Di’an, Director of the National Art Museum of China, to speak about the exhibition.

Mr FAN D’IAN: Your Excellency Ambassador Mr Chen Yuming, respected secretary Dennis Richardson, respected Your Excellency Mr Ke Yasha, Minister Counsellor for Culture of the Embassy of China, and my dear friend, and a close friend, Director of the National Museum of Australia - your excellencies, friends, good evening.

Both countries of China and Australia are holding a cultural year in each other’s country. It is a very important measure of both countries promoting overall development of our two countries, especially in the cultural exchanges. This reminds me of what was happening last year when the Australian Year of Culture was held in China and the launch was held in my museum at a time when the Australian Governor-General was attending that function. The function is still vivid in front of my eyes.

The Chinese people, especially Chinese artists, enjoy greatly the traditional arts in Australia. Having been a successful collaboration with Mr Sayers, we decided that this collaboration should go one step ahead and that we would like to introduce the contemporary art of China to the Australian public.

As everyone knows, in the past days museums and cultural organisations in Australia have held various contemporary art exhibitions on different topics, which gives a preliminary understanding and some taste of the contemporary art from China into the field of vision of the Australian public. Under these circumstances, how do we as a museum introduce contemporary art to Australia? It is a joint topic between our two museums which is quite a challenging one.

As the director said, we should change our minds and also see things from different perspective and also we should change our thinking. That’s why when we talk about contemporary art of China we should think about it and consider it in a much larger scale from different time spans and different backgrounds. So naturally his thinking and his ideas and mine are alike. That is why we come to this stage to have this exhibition. Therefore the arts and the society are closely woven together and also the features of China are clearly expressed. Therefore we can see the works of the artists here. It is a condensed picture of the twentieth century to now what is happening in the art world in China.

As we all enjoy the multiculturalism in Australia, it is my hope that the Australian public and our friends from different countries in Canberra, your excellencies, will understand and appreciate the Chinese arts of its own history and its conditions and also the dynamics and vitality. Just now we had a preview with Secretary Dennis Richardson and His Excellency Mr Chen Yuming. From their comments of this exhibition and their understanding, I believe this exhibition will be a success and the Australian public will have a great renaissance in their mind.

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I would like to take this opportunity to thank the National Museum of Australia and also the Ministry of Culture of China and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and also international cultural committee, the Embassy of China and also Rio Tinto for their great support of the Chinese Year of Culture in Australia. I would like to take this opportunity also to thank Mr Andrew Sayers and your colleagues at your museum, thank you for your great efforts and endeavour. You have presented us with the best space and the meticulous arrangement and in reaching a varied and diversified programs, including academic and public education in a very 3D way so that people can enjoy it much more.

I and also my colleagues are particularly touched by the very detailed work you have done and also the highly professional spirit you have demonstrated and also your rich experience and certainly we have been very touched by myself and my colleagues.

Here I would like to say that the exhibition to you, Mr Sayers, it is your exhibition. It is my exhibition. But it is also our exhibition.

I would like to say thank you very much to all the people attending here. Thank you friends to attend this to enjoy and share this beautiful moment.

This includes a lot of friends coming from interstate, from Sydney, the faculty dean, Professor Ian Howard from the University of New South Wales. I would like to have a special mention to some of the Chinese artists living in Australia. They are very well-known Chinese artists Chen ja way and Mr too. It is because of love and our friendship to the Chinese culture and also arts we have this moment to witness the achievements and the historical moment of our new results between our exchanges of the two nations. Thank you very much. [applause]

ANDREW SAYERS: Thank you very much Fan Di’an. I should now like to introduce His Excellency Mr Chen Yuming, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China who will open the exhibition.

Mr CHEN YUMING: Distinguished Mr Fan Di’an, Director of the National Art Museum of China and respected Mr Andrew Sayers, Director of the National Museum of Australia, respected Mr Dennis Richardson, Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening: It is my great pleasure to attend the opening of a New Horizon the contemporary Chinese art exhibition. The exhibition is a great collection of Chinese masterpieces of ink painting, oil painting, sculpture, new media and other art forms. It gives visitors a comprehensive picture of the progress and achievements in Chinese art over the past 60 years.

Actually my staff at the embassy have prepared a very good speech for me but I would like to speak off the record. I will say that this exhibition occurs at an opportune time. This is because first in two days time we will celebrate the 262nd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and, second, we are in the high time of the year of Chinese culture in Australia and third, next year our two countries will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between our two countries. I think all these important events and important times add great significance to today’s exhibition.

When I was on the road to the museum, it was raining outside. I would say that this is not an ordinary raining. I think it is a range that brings us happiness just like here in this exhibition which provides a very rare and good opportunity for the audiences to understand and to apprehend the contemporary China ease art in a comprehensive way because even if you are in China it is very difficult for you to be able to see so much top-class masterpieces of Chinese art in a single exhibition.

Like one of my Friends told me yesterday that the rain that we are having brings good luck and fortune to us and the exhibition that we are opening today will bring us 70 masterpieces and the experience of the art in the past six decades and also be understanding of the broad Chinese culture over 5,000 years.

Like the rain that we are having, I think the exhibition and other important events will continue to nurture and provide impetus for the sustained and healthy development of the culture exchanges between our two countries and our bilateral relations. Since 1949 especially since China started to form and opening up, China has achieved unprecedented economic and social development. We have seen profound changes and fast development in the Chinese society. The Chinese government has also adopted a policy of letting hundred flowers bosom and diverse schools of thought content. All these provide a very good environment for artistic creation in China.

On such background Chinese artists have followed the times and shown great enthusiasm and passion in artistic exploration and creation. They record vividly China’s development and transformation in the past six decades.

As the previous speakers have mentioned, this exhibition is a key project of the year of Chinese culture in Australia. The selected masterpieces cover various themes ranging from the traditional realistic depiction of historical events in China to the contemporary presentation of the individual world of the artists.

These works not only record times in an objective way but also stand as the marks and mile stones of artists understanding and their individual emotions. The exhibition’s wide variety in themes and styles reflects the richness of China’s contemporary art as well as the openness and pluralism of contemporary Chinese society.

I am convinced that this four-month long exhibition will be a good platform for Australian people to understand Chinese culture in a direct way and to help them better understand the contemporary Chinese society. Now I would like to officially open the exhibition a New Horizon: contemporary Chinese art exhibition. I wish the exhibition a full success. Thank you. [applause]

ANDREW SAYERS: Now I should like to introduce Mr Dennis Richardson, Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to respond to the ambassador’s remarks.

DENNIS RICHARDSON: I will be very brief. I can see everyone has come here to hear me speak and I am sure you are looking forward to what I have got to say. Excellency Chen Yuming, Mr Fan Di’an, Director of the National Art Museum of China, and Mr Andrew Sayers, Director of the National Museum of Australia and distinguished guests - I include everyone in that. I particularly note Ron Radford who is here from the National Gallery and I note a number of ambassadors and also high commissioners.

As has already been said, this exhibition is part of a two-year exchange between Australia and China. Last year we had the year of Australian culture in China. This year we have the year of Chinese culture in Australia.

The two years of exchanges constitute by far the biggest cultural exchange that Australia and China have had. I went to the official opening of the year of Chinese culture in Australia in Sydney a couple of months ago and that was truly outstanding. This exhibition is every bit as outstanding.

It’s only fitting that we should have two years of exchanges. China in all its aspects constitutes one of the very most important relationships for us as a country. I would like to thank the artists who are with us tonight. I would also like to thank the sponsors Rio Tinto and I would like to thank everyone for coming this evening. I am sure when you see the exhibition you will be equally impressed as I was. Thank you. Enjoy the evening. [applause]

ANDREW SAYERS: Thank you, Dennis Richardson, and thank you, Ambassador, for opening the exhibition and thank you Fan Di’an. Now please enjoy the evening. We have fantastic food, beautiful wine provided by our sponsor capital wines. You can’t take food and drink into the exhibition. The other thing that is important to note is that the museum shop with its beautiful Chinese themed display will be open until 8 p.m. this evening. Finally, I just want to remind everybody that tomorrow at 12.30 Fan Di’an is going to give a lecture on contemporary Chinese art where he will discuss the past 60 years, the significant artists and movements. Thank you and good night. [applause]

Date published: 27 October 2011