Friday, June 10, 2011

Milwaukee Art Museum hosts "Summer of China"

There's been a lot of press already about the Milwaukee Art Museum's latest exhibit, called Summer of China. Some of the publicity is due to the controversy that I've written about previously concerning the incarceration of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. I'm sensitive to the issue and won't attempt to repeat it right now, except to direct you to Art City where you can read about a solidarity "sing-in" that's planned for 4 pm today. I hope to make it down there.

This post is not about that. I'll be brief. I went to the members' opening last night. Whatever else the museum does or doesn't do, Summer of China is a magnificent exhibit. Subtitled "The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City," the collection is stunningly beautiful and the installation impeccable. I've seen many permanent collections of Chinese art, in Chicago, Washington, and New York, among others, and this truly stands out. Kudos to the Art Museum for bringing it to Milwaukee. I expect to go back more than once.

That this extraordinary collection even exists seems something of a miracle and I can't help wondering how it survived untouched in the heart of Beijing throughout the so-called Cultural Revolution and other upheavals of the last century. I looked in vain for an explanation among the wall panels.

Let's protest the current politics of China. I'm into that. But let's applaud the art. May it continue to survive.


  1. Please do yourselves a favor and do not overlook the second exhibition in the Summer of China at MAM, "The Emerald Mountain," an exhibition of contemporary inks, drawings, scrolls and calligraphy, unfortunately hidden away in the mezzanine graphics gallery of the museum. For me, as interesting as the main Emperor's art and artifacts may have been, the ink work was more compelling and moving artistcally.

  2. I agree with Peter re: the inkwork in the "Emerald Mountain" exhibit, from collection of Chu-tsing Li -- as nice & rare an opportunity as it was to see the other stuff, this part was easily the highest take-home experience for me. Returned the next day to spend more time with it specifically.