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5 Must-See Museum Exhibitions of Chinese Art in 2023

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With its civilization and rich cultural history dating back 5,000 years, the artistic legacy of ancient China has been a shaping force in the art world. Among the unique styles and techniques of Chinese art are painting, sculpture, wood carving, ceramics, textile arts, and more. 

These five featured exhibitions from around the globe shine a spotlight on some of the rarest and most unique contributions to artistic heritage. A spectrum of themes and rare finds explores new facets and never-before-seen dimensions of Chinese art. From ancient jewelry and precious lacquer to daily objects from the 19th century, these 2023 exhibitions are a must-see for every art enthusiast’s bucket list.    

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Delightful Luxury: The Art of Chinese Lacquer

February 08 – September 18, 2023
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

The decorative art of lacquer, a Chinese art spanning thousands of years, has long captivated collectors with its intricate carvings, ornate inlays, and symbolic motifs. Created from the sap of a native southern China tree, lacquer was originally used as a protective finish for wood, later evolving into ornamental reliefs carved by artisans. Delightful Luxury: The Art of Chinese Lacquer, an exhibition by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco explores this mesmerizing craft, chronicling the opulent heritage of Chinese lacquer art. Over 70 works are on display, ranging from imperial court treasures to scholarly artifacts, and even domestic fixtures. Highlights include a Southern Song Dynasty engraved cosmetic box; a mother-of-pearl inlay tray from the Ming Dynasty; and a layered multi-colored lacquer table screen from the era of the Qianlong emperor. 

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Journey of Color

Opening early 2023
Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Color is woven tightly into the cultural fabric of society. Throughout history, artists and craftsmen have sought to capture the rich range of shades found in nature and the world around them using natural resources and organic materials to create dyes, paints and pigments for their artwork. In ancient Asia, artisans were known to use crushed plants, minerals such as pulverized gold or lapis lazuli, and even ground-up insects to produce boldly hued pigments. These methods and techniques will now be showcased throughout the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC. Thirty-four items will demonstrate the production and use of color in different cultures, showcasing the stories and narratives artisans told through their colorful works of art. 

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Paintings and Ceramics in Dialogue 

April 14 – July 30, 2023
The Cernuschi Museum, Paris

The Cernuschi Museum in Paris will honor art historian and collector Harley Preston with an exclusive exhibition of Chinese and Japanese ceramics and paintings. Preston has bequeathed nearly 200 objects to the museum, including Chinese ceramics dating from the 5th to the 19th century. In homage to Preston’s open-minded vision, the exhibition will be presented in two sections: a dialogue between Song ceramics and 20th-century painting in China, and the Nihonga painting and Mingei ceramics of Japan. Additional acquisitions will complement Preston’s pieces, such as the Shin-hanga prints and a mesmerizing series of paintings of the twelve months of Watanabe Seitei, acquired by the City of Paris. 

Chinese-art-1China’s Hidden Century

May 18 – October 8, 2023
British Museum, London

The resilience and innovation of 19th-century China are brought into public view for the first time in China’s Hidden Century—an exhibition led by the British Museum and London University. The exhibition seeks to explore the cultural, political, and creative undercurrents of Chinese society from 1796 to 1912. Visitors can expect to see the realities of life in 19th-century China through the period’s art, furnishings, fashions and more, as well as glimpse the lives of various noteworthy individuals through rare objects—from cloisonné vases given by the Last Emperor’s court to King George V and Queen Mary for their coronation in 1911 to a silk robe commissioned by the Empress Dowager Cixi.

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The Imperial Porcelain with Painted Enamels

Jan. 13, 2022 – Dec. 31, 2023
National Palace Museum, Taipei

The incredible craftsmanship and vibrant colors of Chinese painted enamel porcelain are highlighted in the Story of an Artistic Style—The Imperial Porcelain with Painted Enamels, presented by the National Palace Museum. The exhibition explores some of the most iconic porcelain styles of the 18th century, showcasing the evolution of painted enamel pieces at the Imperial court of the Qing Dynasty, including its grand imperial court workshops and intricate, highly sought-after works. 

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