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Exhibition: The Forbidden City in Monaco
14 July 2017 - 10 September 2017
On July – Grimaldi Forum presents the Imperial Court Life in China
In 2001, Grimaldi Forum Monaco honoured the “China of the First Emperor” with an absolutely unforgettable exhibition. In the summer of 2017 the focus will be on the last imperial Chinese dynasty (1644–1911), with a celebration of its pomp and circumstance, its tastes and its grandeur.
“The Forbidden City in Monaco: Imperial Court Life in China” – jointly curated by Jean-Paul Desroches, honorary general curator, and Wang Yuegong, director of the Imperial Court Life Department at the Forbidden City – will bring together some 200 remarkable exhibits, from the former palace of the emperors and loans from major European and American collections: the Musée Cernuschi and the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington. The exhibition will invite visitors into the very heart of an emblematic setting, rooted in China’s collective memory and home to a heritage of inestimable value.
The Forbidden City is one of the most impressive palace complexes, and the world’s most popular tourist venue, with some 10 million visitors annually. Now both a palace and a museum, it served as the hub around which the new capital, Beijing, was organised. Created ex nihilo on the orders of the third Ming emperor, it was built at a single stroke between 1406 and 1420, and became the cradle of power for the Manchu dynasty for almost three centuries.
The personalities of the Qing emperors are a crucial element of the exhibition, most notably in the cases of Kangxi (1662–1722), Yongzheng (1723–1735) and Qianlong (1736–1795), who considered themselves exemplars of Chinese culture. As the “Son of Heaven”, the emperor was an all-powerful being and the nation’s military, religious and cultural leader. Visitors will discover items linked to these different functions, among them portraits, ceremonial costumes, furniture, precious objets d’art and scientific instruments, some of which are ranked as “national treasures”. Following the tradition of the Manchu people, whose powerful army, known as the Eight Banners, took control of China in 1644, the military conquests of the Qing emperors will also be represented by various objects and engravings illustrating their campaigns.
During the reign of the Qing, culture was what counted most of all. As reflections of official taste at one of the high points in the history of Chinese civilisation, the country’s various art forms, which had a marked influence in the West at the time, will be highlighted: the arts of the brush in calligraphy and painting, decoration in displays of porcelain and lacquerware, and music and opera. The virtuosity and sophistication of the art of the period have left an enduring legacy whose influence can be seen in the big landscape screen by Zhang Daqian (1899–1983), one of twentieth-century China’s iconic painters.
Designed to allow a relaxed stroll through the palace and into the gardens, the itinerary includes such emblematic features of the Forbidden City as the Temple of Heaven, the Throne Room, the Buddhist temple, the Temple of the Ancestors and the tea pavilion, immersing visitors in a trip to the historic heart of a civilisation several thousand years old.
The scenography addresses the heritage question in an instructively modern way, notably through two models of monumental temples from the China Red Sandalwood Museum in Beijing, archival audiovisual material made public for the first time, and the immersiveness of its tour of the Forbidden City.