China-Italy cultural coup
Governments agree to open exhibition spaces in Beijing and Rome
By Gareth Harris. Museums, Issue 219, December 2010
Published online: 09 December 2010
ROME. In a major stroke of cultural diplomacy, the Chinese government gets its own long-term exhibition space in the heart of Rome under a new agreement; an Italian exhibition hall will likewise open in the National Museum of China in Beijing after Italian culture minister Sandro Bondi and his Chinese counterpart Cai Wu signed a cultural co-operation deal in Rome.
Under the renewable agreement, the Chinese government will oversee a 600 sq. m space at the Palazzo di Venezia in Rome for the next five years. “The aim is to house a state museum of Chinese culture,” according to an Italian Culture Ministry statement.
The first show held in the new Chinese hall opened last month: “The Two Empires: the Eagle and the Dragon” (until 9 January) is a comparative analysis of the Roman Empire and the Chinese Qin and Han Dynasties with over 450 objects dating from the second century BC to the fourth century AD. The show was previously at the Palazzo Reale in Milan; 36 Chinese museums loaned works to the exhibition, which heralded the start of the Year of China festival in Italy.
In return, Italy will take over a wing of the National Museum of China from next June for a five-year period. Mario Resca, the government’s specially appointed director-general for “valorizzazione” (cultural worth) of the artistic treasures of Italy, told our sister paper Il Giornale dell’Arte: “We will have 1,000 sq. m inside the museum. In the next 100 years, this address [on Tiananmen Square] will be the most important in the world, not Fifth Avenue in New York, not London, but Beijing.” The Italian exhibition hall inauguration is set to coincide with the completion of an expansion project at the National Museum of China, launched in 2007, which will increase floor space to 192,000 sq. m.
Chinese press reports point out that the Chinese government was keen to strike a deal because collection-sharing agreements make up for the lack of international art in its museum collections. The deal also pledges to enforce safeguards against the illegal excavation and export of cultural objects, as well as increasing scholarly exchange, promoting joint exhibitions and facilitating long-term loans. The two sides issued a three-year plan of economic co-operation.
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