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A Practical Guide to Tour Exhibitions to China (1)

“Frequent international communications, as well as the development of museology, have encouraged Chinese museums to go beyond China and look to the world. To introduce other civilisations and other cultures has become a common desire shared by many leading museums in China. Nanjing, for example, has added a new four-story wing dedicated to special exhibitions and travelling exhibitions. . . hosting a series of exhibitions from the UK, Italy, the Us and France,” says Heng Wu [1] , the former Deputy Director of the Cultural Exchange Centre of Nanjing Museum and now Curator of Asian Art at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in Canada.

Evidence of this curiosity can be found across China’s contemporary art media. Just looking at the exhibitions page of art.yifeng, one of China’s most prominent online news and information portals, we find many features on exhibitions happening abroad including “Fantastic Women: Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo” at Kunsthalle Frankfurt and “J.M.W. Turner: Quest for the Sublime,” a collaboration between the Frist and the Tate.

In 2017, Shanghai alone hosted 100 touring exhibitions according to a government report and as second-tier cities become more active, the market will certainly be developing further. 

Cultural Exchanges in the New Age

Even during the years when China was isolated from the West, cultural exchange played a huge role in China’s diplomacy. Typically, China sees more outbound exhibitions than inbound exhibitions. “Despite the growth in outbound exhibitions, inbound has been much greater with 161 compared to 293 for 2016,” explains Heng Wu. She writes that China has an active touring exhibition practice, since the 1970s, with exhibitions which revolved around “ancient Chinese civilisation” and often had the word “treasures” in their title—these exhibitions were aimed at promoting China, to promote national interest over promoting the brand of a museum.