Taiwan shows rare art treasures in Vienna

Other News Materials 25 February 2008 16:49 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - In a rare venture abroad, Taipei's National Palace Museum is exhibiting 120 of its grandest masterpieces at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum from February 26 to May 13.

"It is a very great event in the history of our house," museum director Wilfried Seipel said. "It is the culmination of our work to intensify contacts with Asia."

His Taiwanese counterpart, Palace Museum director Lin Mun-lee, said the exhibition was part of an exchange of high cultures in East and West. "The hard work of the past four years in organizing this exhibition paid off," she added.

Despite all assurances by organizers to leave politcal aspects aside and focus on the priceless cultural heritage, the exhibition could not escape political realities.

It is only the fourth time since the Palace Museum's foundation in 1965 that Taiwan has allowed its treasures to travel abroad.

Taiwan is hesitant to let the irreplaceable artworks, moved to Taiwan in 1948 and 1949 by Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang, out of sight fearing confiscation attempts by China.

Japan, for example, which holds Chinese art in high esteem, tried in vain for many years to persuade Taiwan to show some its objects in Japan, but was refused because of lack of legal guarantees.

Austria, like Germany, the United States and France - the only other venues of exhibitions - gave the legal guarantees required for such an exhibition, Seipel stressed.

Yet the exhibition did not fail to create some diplomatic hiccups. In an attempt to unruffle feathers, Seipel stressed that the exhibition did not show Taiwan's national culture, but the Chinese history and asked for understanding on the part of Chinese authorities.

"It would be too strong to speak of intervention...but there were issues that we were able to solve," Seipel said.

The exhibition itself, confined to two rooms in the sprawling Vienna museum may be too small to satisfy Chinese art lovers, but the exceptional quality and wide scope of the exhibited objects gives a good glimpse of the 650,000 pieces of the Palace Museum.

More than half of the objects in the exhibition were never on view outside Taiwan. The exhibition shows on different aspects of Chinese culture - focusing on painting and calligraphy as well as jades, curator Renate Noda said.

Ceramics and bronzes are taking a back seat in the exhibition with fewer, yet stunning, objects.

From March 9 onwards Vienna has another highlight on its exhibition schedule - showing Egypt's Tutankhamun's treasures at the Ethnology Museum.