Over the past few years, "art diplomacy" has become one of the most potent forms of Chinese soft power. From the Mainland lending ancient imperial works for display in Taipei to Hong Kong joining with the UK to promote more cultural exchange, Chinese art is fast becoming one of its most popular forms of "portable culture." While Chinese art is becoming easier to find all across America, mainly because of the initiative of American galleries, museums, and collectors, America has by and large been without arts ambassadors to really push Chinese arts in underserved markets generally in the country's South and Midwest. In a few months, however, that is due to change as the Yao Ming Foundation is set to collaborate with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) on a new permanent MFAH gallery dedicated to the Arts of China.
This collaboration, which will kick off with a gala event in January, will raise funds for the new Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Arts of China Gallery -- named after the largest contributors to the project -- which is due to open next summer. This project is the latest for Yao's foundation, which he founded in the wake of last year's Sichuan earthquake and which is committed to bridging the gap between East and West. From a release:
The new gallery, together with education programs designed specifically for it, will introduce Chinese art to new and wider audiences, promoting cultural understanding among the millions of school aged children, youth, and adults who visit the museum each year.
Yao Ming has devoted careful attention to his foundation since its inception in 2008, when he pledged two million dollars to rebuild schools devastated by the 8.0 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China. The efforts of his foundation have recently been extended to the local Houston community with the MFAH partnership and a grant to the Houston-based charity Collaborative for Children to rebuild four playgrounds in the Houston/Galveston area destroyed by Hurricane Ike. In the future, he plans to lend support to youth-oriented programs and scholarships in China and the United States.
The Gala event will be presented by iTalk Global Communications, Inc., the New Global Telecom Service Provider, which has inspired the theme for the event - Together We Can Make a Difference. Other initial partners joining the effort will include FOX Sports Houston, Houston Magazine, Culture Map and the official hotel partner, Hotel Zaza. The event has been developed jointly between The Yao Ming Foundation, a member of The Giving Back Fund's family of charities, and MMG Strategic Event Marketing.