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A cultural exchange

A cultural exchange

Message from Cai Wu, Minister of Culture, People's Republic of China

China and Australia are both important countries in the Asian–Pacific region. They are also partners. In recent years, the two countries have been communicating frequently on strategic matters, and political trust has increased. Trade is also expanding. On both sides, there is a strong desire to get to know each other better, and the past two years of cultural exchange have provided a wonderful opportunity to do this.

A New Horizon

The people of China embraced the Australian artistic and cultural events that took place during the Year of Australian Culture in China in 2010. The National Museum of Australia's exhibition of Australian Aboriginal art displayed at the National Art Museum of China was particularly popular.

In June this year, Experience China: The Year of Chinese Culture in Australia was launched in Sydney. During the year, a large number of outstanding Chinese artworks will travel to Australia. A New Horizon: Chinese Contemporary Art, featuring works from the collection of the National Art Museum of China, is a rich and varied exhibition.

It includes Chinese ink-and-wash paintings, oil paintings, sculptures and works of new media that reflect on the development of China and the evolution of Chinese art. I believe that Australian people will embrace the opportunity to gain an insight into Chinese society and the spirit of Chinese people today.

These two years of cultural exchange pen a new page in the history of cultural cooperation between our countries. A New Horizon: Chinese Contemporary Art will be a significant part of this. On behalf of the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China, I would like to thank the organisations involved for their knowledge and dedication.

I wish the exhibition a complete success!

Cai Wu, Minister of the People's Republic of China, August 2011

Foreword by Andrew Sayers, Director, National Museum of Australia

Andrew Sayers
Andrew Sayers.
Photo: George Serras.

The National Museum of Australia is delighted to be a partner with the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) in the presentation of A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese Art, an exhibition that examines the art of China since 1949.

This exhibition is the second stage of a major collaboration between our two museums, the first of which was the highly successful display, in Beijing in 2010, of Papunya paintings from the National Museum of Australia's collection.

Art lovers in Australia are quite familiar with the art of present-day China as it has been shown in major art museums such as the Queensland Art Gallery, and in private galleries. But the art of China in the decades from the 1950s to the 1980s is not as well known.

When discussing this exhibition with my colleagues at NAMOC, director, Mr Fan Di'an and deputy director, Mr Ma Shulin, I suggested that this exhibition would be an ideal way to introduce Australian audiences to some of the important Chinese artists of the latter part of the 20th century. I am pleased to see that, as a result of their efforts, this exhibition has become a valuable contribution to Australia's understanding of Chinese visual culture. It also serves as an introduction to some of the key artists who are working in China now, 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 20th century painting. There are significant works in diverse mediums that had a major impact when they were first exhibited in China. Furthermore, it comprises major works by some of the most influential artists in China, many of whom reached positions of high authority in the teaching academies and arts organisations in the country.

We are grateful to NAMOC for allowing so many important works of art to travel to Australia. I would like to extend our sincere thanks to Mr Fan Di'an, Mr Ma Shulin, 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 thank the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China in Australia, His Excellency Mr Chen Yuming, and the staff of the embassy, who have given every assistance in planning the exhibition.

I would also like to acknowledge the assistance of the staff of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who worked with us during the 2010 promotion of Australian culture in China and who have also taken a keen interest in the mounting of this exhibition as part of Experience China: The Year of Chinese Culture in Australia.

An exhibition such as this could not happen without the dedicated professional team at the National Museum of Australia. I thank them for their detailed attention to every aspect of exhibition logistics, planning and design.

Andrew Sayers, Director, National Museum of Australia

Foreword by Fan Di'an, Director, National Art Museum of China

Fan Di'an
Fan Di'an. Photo: National Art Museum of China.

The past two years of cultural exchange between Australia and China have helped to promote and strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

In June 2010, Papunya Painting: Out of the Australian Desert, co-presented by the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) and the National Museum of Australia, was a tremendous success when it opened in Beijing as the inaugural event in the Year of Australian Culture in China. The exhibition attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.

In September this year, the two museums have collaborated once again to produce A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese Art, the key contribution to Experience China: The Year of Chinese Culture in Australia.

Our challenge in producing this exhibition was to bring to the Australian public a different perspective on Chinese contemporary art than had previously been displayed in Australian cultural institutions. Together with my colleague, Andrew Sayers, Director of the National Museum of Australia, and curators from both museums, we decided to create an exhibition featuring Chinese art since 1949, one that located Chinese art in the context of social and cultural change. The representative artists and works have been selected to reflect the history of the time and its cultural landscape, and form a snapshot of Chinese art from the latter half of the 20th century to today.

Chinese art in the 20th century was not immune to the influence of Western culture and social changes. Since the last decades of the 20th century, China has broken its isolation, opened itself to the world, and embraced globalisation. Under the theme A New Horizon, the exhibition chronologically presents the evolution of Chinese contemporary art in three distinctive parts: 'New China', 'New Thinking' and 'New Century'.

The exhibition shows how different generations of Chinese artists have drawn their inspiration from the tension between individual experience and the influence of the outside world, imbuing their works with a vital force. This constant and transcendental search for meaning is reflected here in a discernible shift, in terms of artistic language, from national narrative to individual speech.

Art exchanges are a bridge for understanding and dialogue. We hope that the Australian public and our fellow art professionals will enjoy, study and talk about A New Horizon. We also hope the exhibition will enhance the cultural and academic exchanges between China and Australia, both important Asia-Pacific countries.

On behalf of NAMOC, I hereby extend my thanks for the wonderful support of the Chinese Ministry of Culture, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian International Cultural Council, and the Chinese Embassy in Australia. My special thanks go to Director Andrew Sayers and to our colleagues at the National Museum of Australia, whose heroic efforts have made this event possible.

I look forward to further friendly collaborations between the two museums.

Fan Di'an, Director, National Art Museum of China

Afterword by Ma Shulin, Deputy Director, National Art Museum of China

In early June 2009, on behalf of the National Art Museum of China and its director Fan Di'an, I visited 19 Australian art museums and cultural institutions to prepare for two years of exhibition and exchange programs celebrating Australian and Chinese culture. During my stay in Australia I visited Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, and was warmly welcomed by everyone I met. I clearly sensed their enthusiastic support for this cultural exchange program. I was particularly impressed by the relationships I formed with my colleagues at the National Museum of Australia.

I was deeply attracted to Australian Aboriginal art, with its unique styles and cultural significance. Together with the National Museum of Australia, I decided to make Australian Aboriginal art and Chinese contemporary art the themes of the art exchange program between our institutions.

The National Museum of Australia organised an exhibition based on 92 extraordinary early Papunya paintings, which were displayed at the National Art Museum of China from 10 June until 26 August 2010.

This exhibition was the first art exhibition held in the Year of Australian Culture in China, and is the largest Australian Aboriginal art exhibition ever to be held in China. These vibrant artworks from Papunya in the Western Desert gave Chinese audiences an opportunity to learn about the beliefs and culture of Australian Aboriginal people. The programs developed by the Australian Government to protect and develop Aboriginal art have provided us with a valuable lesson in how we can protect and preserve traditional Chinese culture.

The Papunya exhibition, which was successfully launched by the director of the National Museum of Australia, Andrew Sayers, was extremely well received by Chinese audiences.

This is only the beginning of future cooperation and communication between the two national art museums. To consolidate this relationship, the National Museum of Australia will hold an exhibition of Chinese contemporary art from September 2011 until January 2012.

During Andrew Sayers' visit to Beijing, he exchanged ideas with Fan Di'an and agreed on arrangements for the reciprocal exhibition in Australia. 'Sensing China' is the theme of the Year of Chinese Culture in Australia, and this exhibition, A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese Art, aims to give Australian people an insight into the development of Chinese art since the foundation of the People's Republic of China. The exhibition will comprise many significant works that reveal the authentic energy and creativity of China today.

This exhibition is of great significance because it is the largest art exhibition in the art exchange program for the Year of Chinese Culture in Australia, and the first exhibition of contemporary Chinese arts to be held at the National Museum of Australia.

We appreciate the great support given by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the International Cultural Committee and China's Ministry of Culture. We are also grateful to all the people who have contributed to the cultural exchange between China and Australia, including Geoff Raby, Australian Ambassador to China, counsellor Chen Zixia, Ms Zhang Hong, Craddock Morton, former director of the National Museum of Australia, Andrew Sayers AM, current director of the National Museum of Australia, Ms Li Hong, cultural counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Australia and deputy director-general of the Foreign Affairs Bureau under China's Ministry of Culture, and Chinese Australian painters Shen Jiawei and his wife Wang Lan. We also owe thanks to the staff of the National Museum of Australia for their help and support, and our colleagues at the National Art Museum of China for their great effort in creating this exhibition.

Ma Shulin, Deputy Director, National Art Museum of China, 30 June 2011