'Dragon and Phoenix: Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds' exhibition opens to the public

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'Dragon and Phoenix: Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds' exhibition opens to the public
Installation view of Dragon and Phoenix: Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds. © Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI.- H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, inaugurated Louvre Abu Dhabi’s exhibition, Dragon and Phoenix – Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds. The exhibition opened to the public on 6 October 2021 and will run until 12 February 2022. With more than 200 artworks on display, visitors can explore the cultural and artistic exchange between the Chinese and Islamic worlds from the 8th to the 18th century. A rich cultural programme will accompany the exhibition, offering an array of events, from dragon boating to kayak cinema and family film screenings.

Organised by Louvre Abu Dhabi in partnership with Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet and France Muséums, the exhibition is curated by Sophie Makariou, President of Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, with the support of Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director, and Guilhem André, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Chief Curator of Asian and Medieval Art.

The artworks in Dragon and Phoenix represent long-lasting dialogue between China (the dragon) and the Islamic world (the phoenix), chosen from the collections of Louvre Abu Dhabi and Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, alongside those of 12 international museums and institutions. The exhibition delves into the cultural exchange and prolific artistic production between the two worlds resulting in coveted luxury materials and artworks across a span of more than 800 years.

Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: "Through the poetic title of Dragon and Phoenix, the many interpretations of these two fantastical creatures evoke the significant artistic exchange between two great cultures. The flourishing artistic production, the exquisite objects and materials that came from these two civilisations, brought together across land and sea, is extraordinary. We cannot wait for visitors to experience this fascinating exhibition. My sincere thanks to Sophie Makariou, the Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, the Musée du Louvre, the Shanghai Museum and all our lending partners, without whom Dragon and Phoenix would not have been possible."

Visitors are taken on a journey organised in five chapters, through both land and sea trade routes, to explore the connections, artistic influences and remarkable untold stories, beginning from the establishment of the first Arab merchant colonies in Canton in the 8th century until the threshold of the 18th century. ‘The Islamic world’ references the regions that include countries, cultures and ethnic groups, who shared their affiliation to Islam during this period, such as the Mashriq region, Eastern Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and South-East Asia.

Sophie Makariou, President of Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, said: “From the 8th century up to the beginning of the 18th century, the Islamic world never ceased to regard China as an ideal of technical achievement and beauty, while the Islamic world supplied China with precious luxury objects in metal and glass. This unique exhibition deals with this long history of cultural interactions, of material and immaterial exchanges, and with peaceful relations between those two high-world cultures.”

Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director at Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: "This exhibition brings mythical creatures, dragon and phoenix among many others, on precious objects to life. Textiles, jades, lacquer, silks and ceramics circulated from the Middle Kingdom to the shores of the Mediterranean and inspired production of both cultures. The circulation of persons and manufactured goods through diplomatic, commercial and cultural exchanges is at the core of this exhibition. The five dramatic chapters reveal a story of mutual influences where external inputs and processes of transfer did not undermine the longevity of aesthetic expression, but on the contrary stimulated its creativity.”

Lending institutions for the Dragon and Phoenix exhibition include: Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, Musée du Louvre, Shanghai Museum, Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Archives nationales, Cité de la céramique – Sèvres et Limoges, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Musée de Cluny – musée national du Moyen Âge, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée Jacquemart-André – Institut de France, Musée national de la Renaissance – Château d’Ecouen, Muséum national d’Histoire Naturelle and Musée des Tissus de Lyon.

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