Shanghai Art Scene – Visiting the Shanghai Museum

This week I visited the Shanghai Museum. Shanghai Museum focuses on ancient Chinese art, ranging from sculpture, bronze works, painting, calligraphy, seals, jade works, furniture, coins and Chinese minority art. I toured all the exhibits but thought the four that would be most integral to my study of the development of the Shanghai art market would be the sculptures, bronzes, ceramic pieces and paintings.

The first exhibit I visited was the Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery. Although Buddhism wasn’t introduced to China until the Han dynasties in the 1st century, much of ancient Chinese statuary finds it’s roots in Buddhism, featuring many statues of the Buddha or Buddhist values. Prior to the introduction of Buddhism, statuary typically featured animals. The representation of the figures of dogs, lions, tigers and dragons occur repeatedly. These animals where chosen due to the power and strength their forms represent. The religious pieces also displayed power through the facial expressions on the figures faces and their stances, as well as an emphasis on enlightenment. In ancient statuary the human form is exaggerated so that the head is much larger than natural. This exaggeration emphasizes an importance on the power of the mind. The theme of power and strength is one that occurred repeatedly throughout the other exhibits.

Dog Stone, Tang Dynasty A.D.618-907

Dog Stone, Tang Dynasty A.D.618-907

Lokapala Stone, Tang Dynasty A.D. 618-907

Lokapala Stone, Tang Dynasty A.D. 618-907

Mahavairocana Budda, 2nd Year of Shengming Reigion, A.D. 1163

Mahavairocana Budda, 2nd Year of Shengming Reigion, A.D. 1163

The next exhibition I visited was the Ancient Chinese Bronze. The Bronze Age in China started in the 21st century BC and lasted about 200 years through the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties. The art of bronze casting was a process that was highly technical and bronze pieces were only obtained by those in the upper class. Bronze pieces were a reflection of the owners social status and power. The bronze pieces displayed were weapons (knives, axes ect.) drinking vessels, or musical instruments. In all situations obtaining and using bronze pieces such as these represented power; weapons as a literal representation, and drinking vessels and instruments figuratively as they indicated a high social standing.

Bronze Drum, B.C. 25-220

Bronze Drum, B.C. 25-220

You (Wine Vessel) With Animal Mask, Early Spring &Autumn (770-early 7th century B.C.)

You (Wine Vessel) With Animal Mask, Early Spring &Autumn (770-early 7th century B.C.)

Ancient Axe, Unknown

Ancient Axe, Unknown

After visiting the bronze exhibit, I continued on to the Chinese Ceramics. Walking through this exhibit I found myself making connections between ceramic works created in China too works created in Southern Europe. Up until the discovery of porcelain the development of Chinese ceramics was almost identical to the development of ceramics in Southern Europe. For example one of the Majiayao type vases created between 3100-2700 B.C. has much in common with early Cycladic works of 2300-2200 B.C. Similarities in ceramic pieces between China and Europe continue up until approximately 400BC. The Two Ear celadon shares several similarities with it’s contemporary Greek work Column Crater. In each there is an emphasis on lines, and a similar shape is used. However, at this point in Greek vase painting the focal point shifts towards humanity and designs becomes exceedingly intricate. On the other hand Chinese ceramics becomes more simplified focusing on the shape and form, integrating detailed designs years later. The use of porcelain, which was exclusive to China, is a key factor in the emergence of differences between Chinese ceramics and Southern Europe ceramics. Porcelain allowed artists to create works that were more skilled, and delicate in their creation. This later allowed for more precise and detailed glaze designs. The representation of power, is prevalent as many ceramic pieces feature physical shows of strength or animals which obtain such qualities. Additionally only wealthy Chinese would own porcelain pieces, thus representing a life of luxury, the same way many bronze pieces did.

Painted Pottery Pot with String Pattern, Majiayao Type of Majiayao Culture, 3100-2700 B.C.

Painted Pottery Pot with String Pattern, Majiayao Type of Majiayao Culture, 3100-2700 B.C.

Kernos (vase for multiple offerings), Early Cycladic III-Middle Cycladic !, ca. 2300-2200 B.c. Terracotta

Kernos (vase for multiple offerings), Early Cycladic III-Middle Cycladic !, ca. 2300-2200 B.c. Terracotta

Two Ear Celadon with Vertical Stripes, Warring States, 475-221 B.C.

Two Ear Celadon with Vertical Stripes, Warring States, 475-221 B.C.

Column-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) Classical, ca 430 B.C., red figure.

Column-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) Classical, ca 430 B.C., red figure.

Polychrome Glazed Pottery Statue of Heavenly Guardian, Tang A.D. 618-907

Polychrome Glazed Pottery Statue of Heavenly Guardian, Tang A.D. 618-907

White Glazed Vase, Tang, A.D. 618-907

White Glazed Vase, Tang, A.D. 618-907

Detail of Vase with Underglaze Blue and Red Design of Dragons and Sea Waves Jingdezhen Ware, Yongzheng Reign (A.D. 1723-1735). Qing

Detail of Vase with Underglaze Blue and Red Design of Dragons and Sea Waves Jingdezhen Ware, Yongzheng Reign (A.D. 1723-1735). Qing

Vase with Underglaze Blue and Red Design of Dragons and Sea Waves Jingdezhen Ware, Yongzheng Reign (A.D. 1723-1735). Qing

Vase with Underglaze Blue and Red Design of Dragons and Sea Waves Jingdezhen Ware, Yongzheng Reign (A.D. 1723-1735). Qing

The Chinese Painting Gallery was the last exhibit I visited. Throughout this exhibit I noticed many stylistic elements unique to Chinese painting. Chinese works often include some form of characters, and are typically painted on long scrolls that can extend up to several feet in length. The topic of most of the paintings in this exhibit are nature, and mans interaction with nature. Fishermen by Wu Zhen created in the 13th-14th century shows a highly detailed mountain range with surrounding lakes, and fishermen rowing around the lakes trying to make a living. Despite the time period throughout the exhibit nature is the prevailing topic. Comparatively while many European works featured nature, as time progressed other genres and styles of painting emerged; religious works, portrait painting, genre paintings and many more.  At the same time the Chinese painting Lady with Fan by Fei Danxu was being painted, Eugene Delacroix was painting  Lady Liberty Leading the People. The vast difference in the genre of painting reflects cultural values, and the extreme differences in the development of the art markets.

Zhen, wu. Fishermen. Hanging Scroll. Yuan Dynasty

Zhen, wu. Fishermen. Hanging Scroll. Yuan Dynasty

Cen, Gao. Endless Landscape Scenery. Hanging Scroll. Qing Dynasty

Cen, Gao. Endless Landscape Scenery. Hanging Scroll. Qing Dynasty

Shouping, Yun. Flowers. Album Leaves. Qing Dynasty.

Shouping, Yun. Flowers. Album Leaves. Qing Dynasty.

Danxu, Fei. Lady with a Fan. Hanging Scroll. Qing Dynasty.

Danxu, Fei. Lady with a Fan. Hanging Scroll. Qing Dynasty.

Liberty Leading the People, Eugene Delacroix. 1830.

Liberty Leading the People, Eugene Delacroix. 1830.

Visiting the Shanghai Museum was extremely informative providing a vast amount of knowledge of ancient Chinese art and the beginning of the art market.  In studying the development of the Shanghai art market it is integral that I have background knowledge of these things, which the museum provided me with. I was able to make rudimentary comparisons, which will help to jump-start my research of the development of the Shanghai art market. It was extremely interesting to see how even though European and Asian societies did not have much contact previous to the 15th century, there where many similarities in the art they where producing. I can’t wait to explore more about how the opening of China and the mass contact with European and American societies affected the art market.

 

Sources:

Abattista, Guido. European Encounters in the Age of Expansion. European History Online. 24, January, 2011. Web. 24 September, 2014.

Department of Greek and Roman Art. Athenian Vase Painting: Black- and Red-Figure Techniques. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. October, 2002. Web. 24, September, 2014

Department of Painting: French Painting. Liberty Leading the People. Louvre. Web. 24 September, 2014.

 

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