Brought In Crowds In Shanghai, Nanjing, Beijing, Hangzhou, Xi’an, Dongguan and Wuhan
Having snaked its way through seven cities throughout China, this week marked the closing of the traveling Australian Aboriginal art exhibition, “Our Land, Our Body,” which was seen by nearly a quarter of a million visitors over the course of the past 10 months. Made up of 65 works of Aboriginal art from the Warburton Collection, assembled over the past 20 years, this was the largest exhibition of indigenous art to ever tour China, as well as a centerpiece of 2010’s Year of Australian Culture in China — “Imagine Australia.” First conceived by curator Gary Proctor of the Warburton Arts Project in 2008, the aim of the sprawling exhibition was initially, as Proctor put it, “to make a virtual bombing run of big museums in China, offering the finest Warburton works in a large selection.” When planning the exhibition, Proctor chose to start with Shanghai, but interest from museums in Beijing and several second-tier cities incited Proctor and his team to increase the scope of “Our Land – Our Body” even further.
According to Artinfo, turnout was impressive from the get-go, with 85,000 visitors to the exhibition at its first stop at the Shanghai Art Museum and another 165,000 seeing it at subsequent stops at the Nanjing Museum, The Today Art Museum in Beijing, Zhejiang Museum-West Lake Gallery, Xi’an Art Museum, Dongguan Guancheng Art Museum, and finally Wuhan Art Museum. Part of the exhibition’s success came down to its educational dimension, Artinfo adds, noting that it included a high quality bilingual catalogue and substantial education kit for Chinese schoolchildren. At the Guancheng Art Museum in Dongguan alone, 13 schools workshops were held with over 500 students attending.
Looking ahead, the Xi’an Art Museum has offered to take “Our Land, Our Body” to an additional six Chinese cities in 2013. As Gary Proctor said this week, areas of China with high concentrations of ethnic minorities — mainly in the west and southwest of the country — are likely to be the next stops. Added Proctor, “Government interest in such a tour could spring from the fact that December 2012 will see the start of celebrations for the 40th anniversary of Australia and China establishing diplomatic relations. This is a part of the world that rarely if ever gets international touring shows, but it has strong cultural minority groups which could be interested in seeing what we are doing in Warburton, sharing technologies like our large art glass panels and textiles.”