Collecting the New : Major Museum Collections of Twentieth-Century Chinese Painting in London and Oxford

Michelle Ying-Ling HUANG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

In the first half of the twentieth century, members of the public in Britain were familiar with traditional Chinese painting, but not work produced by living artists from Republican China. Public museums did not become enthusiastic about acquiring twentieth-century Chinese pictorial art until the 1960s. Substantial gifts of modern Chinese painting and calligraphy presented by private collectors to the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in the 1990s have contributed to the proliferation of associated exhibitions, illustrated catalogues and scholarly activities.

This paper explores the visions and strategies of British museums in forming their collections of modern Chinese painting in the second half of the twentieth century. It focuses on the institutional histories, acquisition policies and the collections of Chinese pictorial art in the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in order to examine the impetus for initiating new collecting strategies in the last quarter of the twentieth century. It also investigates the contribution of individual curators in enhancing the British understanding of modern Chinese painting through acquisitions, exhibitions and publications from the 1960s to the 1990s, which laid a strong foundation for developing vigorous programmes of contemporary collecting and display.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-153
Number of pages22
JournalMuseum History Journal
Volume13
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jul 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding
The work described in this paper was supported by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong under a General Research Fund (Project No. LU 244612).

Acknowledgements
An early version of this paper was presented at The Far East: Collectors and Collections Today international conference (2016) at the Musée des Confluences of Lyon and appeared in French in Marie Laureillard and Cléa Patin, eds, A la croisée de collections d’art entre Asie et Occident: Du XIXe siècle à nos jours (2019). I am grateful for the feedback from the anonymous reviewers of this revised article. I thank Anne Farrer, Luk Yu-ping, Shelagh Vainker, Alessandra Cereda and Liu Yan for their help and advice in my research. I also thank Mrs Helen Lui Ting and Dr David Fang for granting my permission to reproduce the images of Figures 2–4 in this article.

Keywords

  • modern
  • contemporary
  • Chinese painting
  • British Museum
  • Ashmolean Museum
  • Modern

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