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Extraordinary Chinese Works from Dramatic Era of Khubilai Khan to Open in Landmark Fall Exhibition at Metropolitan Museum

September 28, 2010- January 2, 2011

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present a major international loan exhibition devoted to the art of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)—one of the most dynamic and culturally rich periods in Chinese history—beginning September 28. Bringing together over 200 works drawn principally from China, with additional loans from Taiwan, Japan, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty will explore the art and material culture that flourished during the pivotal and vibrant period in Chinese culture and history dating from 1215, the year of Khubilai Khan's birth, to 1368, the fall of the Yuan dynasty. The assemblage of extraordinary works will include paintings and sculpture, as well as decorative arts in gold and silver, textile, ceramics, and lacquer, and the exhibition will highlight new art forms and styles that were generated in China as a result of the unification of the country under the Yuan dynasty, founded by Khubilai in 1271. The loans from China will include key pieces from recent archaeological finds that add immeasurably to our knowledge and understanding of Chinese art of this period.

The exhibition is made possible by Bank of America.

The exhibition is also made possible by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Dillon Fund, The Henry Luce Foundation, Wilson and Eliot Nolen, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation, the Oceanic Heritage Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Florence and Herbert Irving, and Jane Carroll.

It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Organized thematically, the exhibition will be presented in four parts. It will open with a section on daily life illustrating the appearance of things in China during the Yuan dynasty, particularly at the imperial court and the capital cities: Coleridge's Xanadu (Shangdu) and Dadu (present-day Beijing). It will include portraits of emperors and their consorts, architectural elements in stone and pottery, costumes, jewelry, and other luxury items for daily use. This section will provide the visitor with a very good idea of what greeted the eyes of Marco Polo when he first reached Dadu (Khanbaligh), the capital of the Great Khan Khubilai.

The next section will feature paintings and sculpture relating to various religions practiced in Yuan China, including Buddhism, Daoism, Nestorian Christianity, Islam, Manichaeism, and Hinduism. Nestorian Christianity and Manichaeism, which are not well known nowadays in the U.S. and Europe, flourished in Central Asia for centuries and on and off in China. The last period of the practice of these religions was in the Yuan period.

Paintings and calligraphy of every major artist and school of the period will also be featured in the exhibition. Highlights of this third section will be two paintings datable to the period between the Mongols' initial incursion into north China in 1215 and the conquest of the Southern Song in 1276; they will be put in a proper context in Chinese art history for the first time in an exhibition.

The final section of the exhibition will concentrate on the decorative arts, with emphasis on porcelain, lacquer, and textiles. The beginning and early development of underglaze decorated porcelain will be presented by important examples, particularly blue-and-white, which eventually became a universal type of porcelain in both Asia and Europe up to the present time. Textiles will be represented by luxury silks from Central Asia and China—apart from their visual appeal, they also demonstrate the exchange of motifs and weaving techniques between China and the Iranian world. A magnificent example on view will be the "cloth of gold," made famous the world over by travelers to Yuan China such as Marco Polo. A highly unusual carpet woven in the tradition of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes, with a Chinese motif surrounded by a Kufic border, will also be included in this section.

Exhibition Catalogue
The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty will be accompanied by a fully illustrated, 360-page catalogue published by the Metropolitan Museum and distributed by Yale University Press. It will be available in the Museum's bookshop and online at store.metmuseum.org (hardcover $65, paperback $45).

The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Educational Programs
A variety of educational programs will accompany the exhibition. Highlights include two full-day events: a "Sunday at the Met" lecture program exploring the world of Khubilai Khan on October 24, and an international symposium entitled Perspectives on the World of Khubilai Khan on December 3. Both will take place in the Museum's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium and are free with Museum admission. An evening lecture on October 8 will be presented by the exhibition's curator, James C. Y. Watt, who is Brooke Russell Astor Chairman of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Asian Art. The Museum will also offer film screenings, including Mongol, directed by Sergei Bodrov (2007). An Audio Guide of the exhibition will be available for rental ($7, $6 for members, and $5 for children under 12).

The Audio Guide is sponsored by Bloomberg.

A special feature on the Museum's website will acquaint visitors with key works of art and themes from the exhibition.

The World of Khubilai Khan is organized by James C. Y. Watt. Exhibition design is by Michael Batista, Exhibition Design Manager; graphics are by Sophia Geronimus, Graphic Design Manager; and lighting is by Clint Ross Coller and Richard Lichte, Lighting Design Managers, all of the Metropolitan Museum's Design Department.

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Complementary Installation
A complementary installation The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change traces the momentous stylistic transformation in painting and calligraphy that began under Mongol rule and culminated in the literati traditions of the early Ming. On view through January 9, 2011, in the Museum's galleries for Chinese painting and calligraphy, it includes some 70 Yuan and early Ming works of art from the Metropolitan Museum's collection as well as from New York-area private and public collections.

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September 7, 2010

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