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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 'crown jewels' are highlight at Shanghai exhibition
Attributed to: Ma Yuan , Chinese , act. 1189-1225 , Composing Poetry on a Spring Outing, Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Handscroll, ink and color on silk. Image: 11 5/8 inches x 9 feet 10 3/4 inches (29.54 x 301.63 cm) Overall: 11 7/8 inches x 21 feet 6 inches (30.16 x 655.32 cm). Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust.

KANSAS CITY, MO.- The most treasured Chinese landscape paintings from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art collection are part of a special 60th anniversary exhibition at the Shanghai Museum that opened this month to enormous crowds and much praise. The special exhibition, Masterpieces of Early Chinese Painting and Calligraphy in American Collections, is an assemblage of masterpieces showcasing the best Chinese paintings and calligraphies from the 10th to the 14th centuries. More than 8,000 visitors are attending each day.

The Nelson-Atkins is among the rare museums that can tell the story of Chinese painting during the Song Dynasty, considered one of the world’s greatest artistic revolutions. The Chair of the Nelson-Atkins Board of Trustees, Sarah Rowland, attended the opening of the exhibition with Colin Mackenzie, the museum’s senior curator of Chinese art.

“I was deeply honored to represent the Nelson-Atkins at the opening in Shanghai,” said Rowland. “The exquisite masterpieces that traveled there from Kansas City are iconic, world-renowned treasures. They are among the most beautiful and admired works in the Nelson-Atkins collection.”

The paintings have been brought together in Shanghai to provide Chinese visitors, scholars and enthusiasts a rare opportunity for further appreciation and research

“The importance of this exhibition is unprecedented,” said Mackenzie. “Never before has such a comprehensive exhibition of early Chinese painting masterworks from American museums been exhibited together and never again is it likely to happen. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of the greatest masterworks of world art."

Sixty pieces of Song and Yuan calligraphy and painting were borrowed from the American museum collections for the exhibition. Organized by the Shanghai Museum, the exhibition is collaboration with the Nelson-Atkins, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and The Cleveland Museum of Art.

Upon the return of our great masterworks from Shanghai to Kansas City, the paintings will be celebrated in grand style at the Nelson-Atkins, giving visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these fragile treasures together.

"I believe that this exhibition will have a far-reaching effect on US-China cultural relations,” said Mackenzie. “The fact that four great American museums were willing to lend Chinese masterworks back to China is a tribute to the excellent relations enjoyed between them and the Shanghai Museum. I am also certain that the Chinese visitors hugely appreciate the opportunity they have been given to see these paintings and that they will hope for more cultural exchanges between China and America."

Opening February 8, the paintings will be shown in the museum’s Kirkwood Hall and Chinese galleries “in dialogue” with contemporary works by celebrated Chinese artist Xu Longsen, creating a dramatic experience for visitors. Longsen’s work has been inspired by ancient masters of Chinese landscapes, and he will create new works of art in a museum studio while visitors watch. A dynamic installation in Kirkwood Hall includes Longsen’s landscape of epic proportions–85 feet long and 12 feet high–along with the Nelson-Atkins masterpiece Illustration to the Second Prose Poem on the Red Cliff attributed to the Northern Song painter Qiao Zhongchang (late 11th—early 12th century), which is 22 feet long. The exhibition of the old and new together, Journey through Mountains and Rivers: Chinese Landscapes Ancient and Modern, will be open through April 8.

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