Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty: Concept and Design by Robert Wilson

Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty

Presented by:
Sit Investment Associates

February 3 to June 10, 2018

Enter a world where art and theater collide

They ruled with unrivaled opulence. They led secret lives of infinite power and pleasure. They built an empire to end them all. Now, from the mind behind the groundbreaking theatrical performance Einstein on the Beach, comes this story of China’s last emperors. A rare spectacle of art, light, and sound that places you inside the palace walls. Among the desires and dreams, the mystery and splendor.

“Sensual, experiental […] breaks the museum mold.” –MPR

“I left feeling like I’d just been to another fantastical universe” — Star Tribune

About the Exhibition

In Mia’s collaboration with the renowned international theater and opera director, designer, and artist Robert Wilson, objects from the museum’s collection are displayed in a series of shifting environments. Brightness gives way to darkness. Abundance yields to scarcity. The objects are cast, quite literally, in a new light.

Each room evokes an aspect of life within China’s imperial palace during the Qing (pronounced “ch’ing”) dynasty, which ruled for more than 250 years, until 1911, and combined power with beauty—a golden age of art. The splendor of royal gatherings. Mystic teachings and the sacred rhythms of nature. And the emperors themselves—their bliss and burdens and occasional desire to escape it all.

“The reason we work in the theater is to ask, ‘What is it?’ not to say what it is,” says Wilson. And this is the approach he has brought to Mia. Objects as emotion. The exhibition not as explanation, but as experience.

Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty contains ambient sounds, scents and lighting effects that may be overwhelming to those with sensory sensitivities. Please speak with a Visitor Experience team member if you have any questions.

This exhibition is organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Lighting design by A.J. Weissbard.

About Robert Wilson

In Mia’s collaboration with the renowned international theater and opera director, designer, and artist Robert Wilson, objects from the museum’s collection are displayed in a series of shifting environments. Brightness gives way to darkness. Abundance yields to scarcity. The objects are cast, quite literally, in a new light.

Each room evokes an aspect of life within China’s imperial palace during the Qing (pronounced “ch’ing”) dynasty, which ruled for more than 250 years, until 1911, and combined power with beauty—a golden age of art. The splendor of royal gatherings. Mystic teachings and the sacred rhythms of nature. And the emperors themselves—their bliss and burdens and occasional desire to escape it all.

“The reason we work in the theater is to ask, ‘What is it?’ not to say what it is,” says Wilson. And this is the approach he has brought to Mia. Objects as emotion. The exhibition not as explanation, but as experience.

About Liu Yang

Liu Yang, PhD, is Mia’s curator of Chinese art and head of the museum’s department of China, South and Southeast Asian Art. Since joining Mia in 2011, he has curated some of the most important and popular exhibitions of Chinese art outside of China itself.

Yang grew up near Hangzhou, one of China’s most scenic cities, and earned his PhD in Chinese art history and archaeology from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He became the senior curator of Chinese art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia, in 1997, where he mounted an impressive number of major exhibitions, including shows on Chinese painting and calligraphy, jades, bronzes, Buddhist and Daoist art. His exhibition of Chinese terracotta warriors set an attendance record.

At Mia, his exhibitions have ranged from contemporary ink paintings by Liu Dan—one of China’s most renowned living artists—to a second terracotta warriors exhibition, which became the most popular show at the museum in nearly 25 years. His research has helped illuminate the museum’s prized ancient bronzes, and his work with Chinese museums has resulted in an unprecedented international exchange of art and personnel. Recently, with the help of Chinese artisans, he supervised the installation of a traditional residential courtyard gate outside Mia’s Chinese galleries.

Contributing Artists

Rodrigo Gava, sound design

A.J. Weissbard, lighting design

Wang Dongling, visual artist

Yang Yongliang, visual artist

Stephanie Engeln, Associate Designer