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.
Limited capacity; timed tickets. Reserve your experience today.
This exhibition is organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Lighting design by A.J. Weissbard.
Nivin and Duncan MacMillan Foundation
Johanna Maud Hill
Estate of Patricia S. Ringer (Carpenter-Coan Family)
Marianne Short and Raymond Skowyra
Generous support provided by the Gale Family Endowment.
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.
“If you slow things down, you notice things you hadn’t seen before,” says Robert Wilson, whose visionary approach to art has expanded the possibilities of theater, visual art, and design for more than 50 years.
Born in Waco, Texas, Wilson gravitated to the New York theater scene in the mid-1960s, drawn to choreographers such as Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham who were breaking the narrative traditions of the stage through the use of randomness and stylized movement. In the early 1970s, Wilson collaborated with composer Philip Glass to create the five-hour opera Einstein on the Beach, a landmark of plot-less storytelling and theater as installation—a spectacle to be experienced.
More experiments followed, including collaborations with musicians Tom Waits and Lou Reed, and forays into visual art (he won a Golden Lion at the 1993 Venice Biennale for his sculptural installation). Recently he has worked with Brad Pitt, Salma Hayek, and other actors on a series of slow-moving video portraits and with Lady Gaga on staging her music. Last fall, he designed a theatrical showroom for luxury jewelry-maker Van Cleef & Arpels, evoking Noah’s Ark through sound, light, and video.
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..
Rodrigo Gava, sound design
A.J. Weissbard, lighting design
Wang Dongling, visual artist
Yang Yongliang, visual artist
Stephanie Engeln, Associate Designer
Minneapolis Institute of Art
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