The Emperors New Colors. 19th-Century Chinese Art from the MAK Collection demonstrates the history and diversity
of Chinas courtly art production during this period using objects from the MAK Collection Textiles and Carpets as well
as Asia. For this showing, the usual division of holdings according to materials and sections will be superseded by a more
integrative mode of presentation.
The 19th century began with China a leading world power, but by centurys end it had become a dysfunctional state which was dependent upon the powers of Europe. Despite the countrys being weakened by internal unrest and wars with the rising colonial powers of Europe, the power of Chinas imperial house continued to be celebrated with extravagant creationsin seeming oblivion to the political problems affecting its dominion. Chinese traditional motifs continued to resonate in such works of art and craftsmanship, developing historicist-type variations. At the same time, newly invented chemical pigments made possible flamboyantly colored compositions that were highly coveted.
Although exportsabove all to European marketsstagnated during this period, porcelain and luxury articles from the imperial manufactories show how the tradition of superlative craftsmanship was upheld. The imperial porcelain manufactory in Jingdezhen supplied the court with costly ceramics which frequently harkened back to 18th-century designs. Towards the end of the 19th century, a campaign was mounted to recapture export markets that had been lost. Large ensembles of sample vases were produced to demonstrate the high standard of Chinese porcelain.
The British maritime trade monopoly during the first half of the century led to the growth of the export industry in and around the treaty port of Canton (Guangzhou). An increasing number of works employed ivory, with consideration being given to the European market in terms of styles and actual uses.
Finally, this exhibition will include photographs taken in Hong Kong by Austrian photo - grapher Wilhelm Burger in 1869. These show China as seen by Europeans during the 19th century.
Curators Barbara Karl, MAK Curator Textiles and Carpets; Johannes Wieninger, MAK Curator Asia
In the Study Collection, the MAK exhibits selected objects of its extensive collection on a permanent basis. The arrangement by materials corresponds to the specializations of the collections curators, while the selection of objects is based on major lines of development. Moreover, temporary exhibitions offer an opportunity to cast a spotlight on various aspects of the collection and to consider objects in the collection between the poles of applied and contemporary art.
At the same time:
THE EMPORER'S NEW COLORS
19th Century Chinese Art from the MAK Collection Textiles.