Ink Tank

On 22/12/2013 by Site Default

ONE MET. MANY WORLDS. The Met’s slogan is emblazoned across Fifth Avenue over banners that cover its façade and the now under-construction Koch Plaza. The phrase heralds the museum’s globalist vision, but in Chinese characters it reads slightly different, roughly translating to: Visit the Met. Seemulticulturalism. Last week, invoking the grand narrative of “Chinese tradition,” the arbiters of the world’s cultural heritage launched a provocative foray—the Met’s first major exhibition dedicated to contemporary Chinese works—with “Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China.”

The title itself is a tad disingenuous, and prompted some humorous musings. (Does the exhibition comprise tattoos, we wondered? Māori symbols?) The show, which features seventy-some works by thirty-five artists, is surrounded by one of the most important collections of classical Chinese ink painting outside of China, so expectations were understandably high. Inside the empty beaux-arts Great Hall, women in festive qipaos walked up the grand staircase at the speeds their slender dresses would allow; at the top of the stairs, ushers in more pragmatic blue blazers pointed the way to the Asian Art galleries. More than six hundred people were invited to the opening, and the throngs poured into the galleries.

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