Andy Warhol’s Pop artwork and his writings on Pop art- Revolutions and Popular culture

Andy Warhol. Marilyn Monroe. 1967. Portfolio of 10 screenprints, each composition and sheet: 36 x 36″ (91.5 x 91.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art. Photo Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art. Photo was published in [http://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2015/04/29/serial-singular-andy-warhols-campbells-soup-cans/]

When we think of Pop Art, it is inevitable to conjure up the image of the legendary American artist- Andy Warhol. Andrew Warhola (Andy Warhol) –the ‘Prince of Pop’ who had multiple identities, is recognized as the pioneer of the American Pop Art movement and one of the most influential artists as well as writers of the 20th century. A child from Czech-immigrant family, Andy Warhol was born and grew up in a poor industrial town of Pittsburgh, studied at Carnegie Tech (Carnegie Mellon) and moved to New York climbing higher the ladder of art career. Famous for his avant-garde Pop Art paintings and screen printings, he utterly refined what art could be: he transformed the nature of Fine Art in the 1950s and 1960s and posed a powerful impact on contemporary art landscape. In fact Andy Warhol is one of the few, if not the only one, to apply the elements of commercialism and advertising into the field of Fine Art. Revealed by his writings on Art, Andy Warhol’s pop artworks showcases a challenge to the Fine art tradition and reflects American mass popular cultures in the 1960s. 

Throughout pop art history in the United StatesAndy’s Warhol led a significant role. Pop art movement emerged in England in early 1950s and late 1950s in America, initiated by Andy Warhol. The term ‘Pop’ coined by the art critic Lawrence Alloway in 1954, is clipped from the word ‘popular’ and at the very beginning it referred to the advertisement on magazines, posters in front of cinemas and propaganda, which largely differ from the wider meaning of an art movement regarded by people nowadays (Lawrence Alloway)Today, in general Pop Art is seen as mass popular art, stressing the everyday, commonplace values, and is popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business”, described by the American artist Richard Hamilton (Chilvers, Ian, and Glaves S. John, 776). Sharing similarity to Dada and celebrating materialism and consumerismPop art images of Warhol such as commodity are extracted in ordinary livesand are always juxtaposed with other unrelated materials to defuse the personal symbolism, painterly looseness” of Abstract Expressionism and brings back hard-edged composition and representational art (Mahsun,244).Noticeably although there are a few American artists before tried to express the spirit of ‘Pop’ in their art works, Andy Warhol is the first one who could introduce this significant art concept to the people influentially by using techniques such as repetition, ‘impersonal, reality, parody and irony’(Louisiana, 34)Famous for repeating one image as the single material of the picture, Andy Warhol was a dominant representation figure of ‘Pop Art’ movement and marks his prominent status in the American art history. Overall, undoubtedly Andy Warhol led a major role in contemporary American Pop art history.

Revealed by his writings on art and artworks Andy Warhol revolutionized traditional art by choosing ordinary objects as the theme of works, which shortened the distance between art and ordinary people. Before the Pop art movement, artists held up high the values of art tradition that was out of connection with the society; they were creating a higher threshold of art appreciation and thus art was misinterpreted by the general public as far away from the ordinary life (Louisiana, 20). Being the first one using commercialism in art, Andy Warhol showcased his ambition to debase high art, reduce it to a commodity and raze the barrier between high and low culture.Warhol wrote in his diary saying ‘Pop art is for everyone… I don’t think art should be only for the select few’, emphasizing the importance of art being able to be reached and appreciated by every individual(Francis, Mark and Foster, Hal.,304)In other words, his dedicated to eradicate the class of ‘high’ or ‘low’ arts so that ‘when [people] think about [art], department stores are kind of like museums’(Sylvester). To achieve this goal, his subjects were those ‘images that anybody walking down Broadway could recognize in a split second–comics, picnic tables, men’s trousers, celebrities, shower curtains, refrigerators, coke bottles’, or product labeling and logo used in advertising. The theme of consumerism had never been adapted in Fine Art before, but Andy changed the concept of art appreciation as the center of subject is commodity, something accessible in our daily lives- one significant illustration was the use of commodity label in Campbell’s Soup Cans by putting fifty soup cans together on a canvas. In contrast to the abstract expressionists who ‘tried so hard not to notice [the great modern things] at all’, Warhol’s Pop art helps people to rediscover the flavor of life, as what he says: ‘Once you “got” Pop, you could never see a sign again the same way again.’ (Louisiana, 43). It is clear that Warhol was ‘seeking to create a real art of the people’, and ‘returning to a popular tradition’ (Louisiana, 43). Through choosing the objects commonly found around, Andy Warhol refines traditional art to a more reachable popular art by shortening the distance between art and everybody at that time.

His writings and artworks revolutionizes traditional art in terms of the production and business mode of Pop art. In the past, traditional artwork was oil-painted and manually produced in a slow rate; but in 1960s, to make an irony and mimic the industrialism of the modern society, Warhol not only depicted mass products but his artworks are also mass produced to achieve the proliferation of art,showing the similarity with factory products. He actually established an art studio named The Factory in 1962, employing ‘art workers’ to produce Pop screen prints and posters in a large quantity therealso the pseudo-industrial silk paint he used enables mass production of artworks generating fortunes, considering as ‘a commercial, non-artistic vehicle’ to substitute the artist’s individual style (Louisiana, 12). Enthralled by the success and promising profit of the art business, he argued‘[m]aking money is art and working is art and good business is the best art’. For instance, in regards to the set of photograph reproduction work of celebrities such as James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis PresleyMao Zedong and Marilyn Monroe, Warhol declared that he wanted to ‘be a machine’ to produce it ‘over and over again’ to earn as much money as possible (Louisiana, 56). It is noticeable that the remarkable economic value of art is rediscovered by Warhol; through the minimization of his own manual role involved in the production Warhol sparked a revolution in art.

Echoing his writings on Pop art, Andy Warhol’s work showcases a mass popular American culture in the 1960s. Popular culture refers to the prevalent idea, attitudes, images, perspectives as a mainstream in the society of a certain period.During the 1960s in United States where consumerism and capitalism are in vogue,Andy Warhol’s Pop art includes many notable commercial related images that art critics commented that he is ’a mirror of the society of his time’ (Louisiana, 185). Letalone the large American dollar bills, the best known American symbols such as trademarks of Campbell’s soup tins, Brillo, Heinz and Coca-Cola, or celebrities of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Campbell’s Soup all can be found in Warhol’s early production (Louisiana, 55). Despite consumerism, it also reflects America’s greatest core value of equality: according to Warhol, ‘[w]hat’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are good, Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it?’ (Louisiana, 16). Moreover, Andy constructed an identity for himself and became a cultural symbol of America, as his art also becomes a form of advertising about him being an artist. With reference to his works titled ‘Self-portrait’, the self-portraiture was a central theme using advertising element in Andy Warhol’s extensive body of work; his face is now as familiar and recognizable as the pop idols and commercial icons he depicted and serialized (The Williams College Museum of Art). Due to his widely influential and recognizable American image, he even declared that ‘I think I represent America.”(Gianfranco, 180). Incorporating a variety of elements illustrating pop icon,commodity, and even the self- portrait of Warhol himself; indisputably Andy Warhol’s work presents a mass popular American culture in the 1960s.

Andy Warhol. Self-Portrait. 1986. Acrylic paint and screenprint on canvas. 2032 x 2032 mm. Tate Modern. Presented by Janet Wolfson de Botton 1996. Photo Courtesy of Tate Modern. Photo was published in [http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/warhol-self-portrait-t07146]

With no doubt Andy Warhol attracted the worldwide attention and made a foray into the world of theatre, and inarguably ‘Warhol’s gaze is supported by a ‘materialistic ecstasy’, as many people regard that the society starting from 1960s is ‘no longer a place for interpersonal relations’, but ‘a simple transfer of goods’ (Gianfranco, 177). Not only a mirror of his consumerism society of the time, Andy Warhol’s artwork also refined the definition of art: he helped substitute the society which lost interest in the learned art of museums with what could be easily accessible on streets or supermarket. Despite being an artist, Warhol is also a writer writing splendid ideas on art; together with the pop artworks, he challenges the Fine art tradition and reflects American mass popular cultures, influencing the mass media and the public powerfully throughout the visual art to the present day.


Works cited

Chilvers, Ian, and Glaves S. John. A dictionary of modern and contemporary art. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Francis, Mark and Foster, Hal. PopPhaidon Press, 2005.

Gianfranco RosiniAndy Warhol: Art and Life. Taipei: Artist Publishing, 2008. Print.

Lawrence Alloway; Critic, Curator, Pop Art Innovator. 6 January, 1990.http://articles.latimes.com/1990-01-06/news/mn-432_1_pop-art. 27 Feb. 2012.

Livingstone, M., Pop Art: A Continuing History, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Andy Warhol and His World. 40. 2 (2000): 12-30. Print.

MahsunCarol Anne. Pop art: the critical dialogueUMI Research Press1989.

Sylvester, David. Factory to warehouse: ‘When you think of it,’ Andy Warhol said, ‘department stores are kind of like museums.’ Now he has a museum of his own: a dollars 12m warehouse conversion which opened last Monday in Pittsburgh, his home town. It’s a fitting showcase for his repetitive geniusThe Independent. 22 May 1994http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/arts–factory-to-warehouse-when-you-think-of-it-andy-warhol-said-department-stores-are-kind-of-like-museums-now-he-has-a-museum-of-his-own-a-dollars-12m-warehouse-conversion-which-opened-last-monday-in-pittsburgh-his-home-town-its-a-fitting-showcase-for-his-repetitive-genius-1437679.html. 28 Feb. 2012

The Williams College Museum of Art. Warhola Becomes Warhol – Andy Warhol: Early Work. n.d. http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/7aa/7aa111.htm. 28 Feb. 2012.

Warhol, Andy. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, from A to B and back again. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975. Print.

My Dear – Meng Yan’s Solo Exhibition

EC Gallery,  Nov 15 – Dec 5 2013

Incorporated with myriads of typical Chinese elements, Meng Yan’s paintings usually have auspiciously rouge background, wide lotus leaves, flourishing peonies, and majestic phoenixes reminding one vividly of the traditional Chinese New Year painting, which is no longer easy to find nowadays.

While echoing those traditional paintings that people use to pray for fortune and luck, Meng’s works have revealed her unique personal thoughts about fortune and joy. She possesses a deep cherishing of fortune among the uncertainties, believing it is important that whilst you have it, you have to balance it. In other words, fortune needs to be treasured, or otherwise, it might be easily lost. In one of her paintings, she has captured the moment of happiness onto the canvas through depicting a group of girls playing happily on the unstable clouds; while showcasing the riskiness of endeavouring to balance themselves, she also implies that perhaps they will fall down from heaven the next second.

Moreover, projecting the long-lasting memory of childhood happiness on the canvas, Meng creatively builds up a wonderful dreamland with memory of joy. She amazes her audience and brings them back to the once-forgotten childhood to embrace a simple and carefree life. Through the sanguine complexion of the cute and baby-like figures, who often freely play up in the sky in the paintings, Meng injects happiness and vigour into the paintings, and also demonstrates her pursuit of purity, optimism, liveliness, freedom and optimism.

Born in Shandong in 1982, Meng Yan obtained both undergraduate and master degree in Oil Painting Department of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. After completing her graduate school study in 2010, Meng Yan decided to return to her birthplace to further pursue her artistic career. She is one of the up-and-coming contemporary artists from China, and her works are visually stunning and vibrant. By presenting a sense of harmoniousness, Meng Yan paints an indelible mark on people’s hearts.

*Editor’s note: This article is published originally in [http://www.galleryec.com/exhibition/my-dear]; photo courtesy of EC Gallery and rights belong to EC Gallery.*

Dispelling dailyness: Hong Kong mixed media artist Ivy Ma–profile

Hong Kong’s Ivy Ma. Image courtesy the artist.

Hong Kong’s Ivy Ma. Image courtesy the artist.

Image-2_Ivy-MA_Numbers-Standing-Still

Ivy Ma, “Cambodia / Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum / Numbers Standing Still” (series), 2012, pastel, graphite and ink on archival print, 78.6 x 60 cm each, 11 panels. Collection of Hong Kong Museum of Art. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery EXIT.

We take a closer look at the seemingly melancholic artworks of young Hong Kong artist Ivy Ma.

On the back of a win in the 2013 Hong Kong Young Artist Awards and inclusion in an online Artshare exhibition of Hong Kong artists, which was titled “Resistance” and curated by leading art writer Caroline Ha Thuc, Art Radar spoke with Ivy Ma about her fascination with historical tragedy and her lack of interest in daily imagery.

Reflections on historical tragedy

Ma’s photographic series “Cambodia / Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum / Numbers Standing Still” (2012) explores the dark history of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. The series is made up of 11 panels, each of which displays a numbered tag which appears to hang over a human chest. The photographs are hung in a specific order: the numbers are arranged in the Fibonacci sequence. “[I didn’t do this] to provide another way of looking at history; I actually don’t know how to look at and understand all these [photographs],” she says.

Ma chose this subject matter because of a lack of interest in dailyness. “I am tired of the daily images that surround me,” Ma explains. She admits, however, to being unsure why she creates art about tragic or horrific historical events. “When I look back, I guess I am shocked by human beings’ extreme behaviour,” she explains. “We are […] so helpless facing history and history never reflects itself clearly. Perhaps [this] is the nature of history. It is like we look at a huge landscape in mist.”

Inspired by French writer and director Marguerite Duras’ film Hiroshima Mon Amour, Ma was compelled to “deal with the photographs in another way.” She took the name of the work from a long poem called Alphabet by Inger Christensen. In one part of the poem, the poet writes about the atomic explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. In a similar way to “Numbers Standing Still”, Ma’s artwork Walking Towards (2012) conveys history through her re-photographing of an image of the aftermath of the August 1945 explosion in Hiroshima.

Subject matter and self

Ma also makes works “with the things that come to my mind constantly” and, she says, to explore what kind of person she is. “Sometimes I surprise myself [by] how much I need to step into myself to dig out things,” she explains. “I don’t like the process at all as it is a deep hole; you have to go back and forth, but it is the only way I can do it.” In her 2006 photographic series “Perception of Phenomenal Soundlessness”, the audience sees her unclothed body posing in a suitcase placed on snow-covered ground. The work was produced while Ma was an artist-in-residence in Finland.

“I think the word ‘loneliness’ does bear much meaning; it […] describes a certain mode,” says Ma when asked about the desolate mood that is so seemingly apparent in many of her works. “For me, I don’t indulge in that mood, but when I think about doing something minimal and think about a structure or form to apply to the materials, I think the minimal structure itself does show its own [kind of] loneliness.”

More on Ivy Ma

After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts (Painting) from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Ivy Ma received her MA in Feminist Theory and Practice in Visual Art at University of Leeds in 2012. Aside from her work as a practising artist, Ma also works as an art educator, teaching at the Hong Kong Arts Center and the Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity.

She was represented by Gallery EXIT at Art Basel Hong Kong in May 2013, won the Asia Contemporary Art Show’s Hong Kong Young Artist Prize in the same year and in 2007 became an Asian Cultural Council grantee. Her works are collected by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

In recent years, Ma has shown her work in numerous solo and group exhibitions, among them: “Resistance”, an online exhibition on Artshare curated by art writer Caroline Ha Thuc to accompany the release of her book Contemporary Art in Hong Kong (group, 2013); “Transformation & 8th Anniversary Show”, YY9 Gallery (group, 2012-2013); “Running on the Sidelines – Hong Kong New Media Art Exhibition”, Soka Center, Taiwan (group, 2012); “Numbers Standing Still” and “Gazes”, Gallery EXIT (solo, 2011 and 2010, respectively); “Still Lives and Waves with Artists in the Neighbourhood Scheme V”, Hong Kong Film Archive and Commercial Press Book Shop (solo, 2011); “Rediscover Photography, China Pingyao International Photography Festival (group, 2011).

This article was written by a participant in our art writing diploma programme. Do you want to write for Art Radar, too? Click here to find out more about our Diploma in Art Journalism & Writing.

On Ki Angel Choi

*Editor’s note: This article is published originally in [ http://artradarjournal.com/2014/04/04/dispelling-dailyness-hong-kong-mixed-media-artist-ivy-ma-profile/]  and is republished with the consent of the author.*

Abstract Expansion - Alberto Reguera's Solo Exhibition

Karin Weber Gallery, 12 September to 6 October 2013

Spanish artist Alberto Reguera likes emphasizing spatial volume, pigment and expansion.

Captured by his works at the first sight, the audience would find them very intriguing as Reguera subverts the tradition of painting on a canvas and transforms them into more like pieces of sculptures and pictorial installations. On each of the 15 ivory-white canvas, a size of about 10X10 (sometimes larger) cm cube is placed onto it, with heavy layers of paint, color pigment spilling and extending beyond. Imagining the whole work as a terrestrial ground, you would find it filled with vivid energy, movement, and volume. The colors of the pigment are usually chosen to echo with the major components on the earth, such as the earth tone of saddle brown and sand brown mimicking the ground; light lime and ivy green resembling the forest; cobalt blue and sapphire referring to the ocean. Looking at it closely enough, you would also discover the texture of the cube is more rough and rusty when its in brown color; needless to say it helps to link the image of salt and sand. While the colors and texture all illustrate well the idea of an abstract nature or planet, the naming even says more, as each of his works is named beautifully like Light Strands, Telluric Universes, Celestials Encounters, Sunset and Floating Night Landscape. Contrasting the white background, the pigment splash seems to be completed in very freestyle way, yet it is not overly spilled to spoil the harmony of the whole work. In fact, they are all seamlessly done and bring the reader into a moment of meditation about the insignificance of human in the vast universe.

Reguera currently resides in Paris, and his oeuvre are exhibited in many countries around the world such as Amsterdam, Shanghai, Madrid, Rome and Lisboa.

 Flower show - A Photography Exhibition in Central, Hong Kong

Blindspot Gallery, March 14–April 14 2012

“I hope to capture every beat of the society via photography, and to gain inspirations for my photographic works from the society”, Paul Yeung said. Better known for his roles as a correspondent in Reuters and commercial wedding photographer, Yeung also belongs to the new-arising group of ‘photography author’, referring to the construction of new meanings upon the ordinary things through the medium of photography. In Flower Show, by capturing the visitors’ outfit and activities at the Hong Kong Flower Show and deliberately cropping out their faces, Paul showcases his outstanding rumor of collective behavior and makes ridicule of the cliché of salon photography.

This exhibition at Central’s Blindspot Gallery is a big success – Paul Yeung brings the audience a different angle of thinking. The twelve images exhibited, all taken within the space of 10 years, are considered as out of the norm of salon photography at first glimpse since they do not share its common theme of beauty appreciation such as sunset, pretty girls and scenery, but simply making fun of the interesting coincidence of life – visitors at the flower show accidentally wearing flower-patterned clothing echoing the actual flowers at the back. This set of photos also showcases a parody towards the practices of the amateur photographers who mindlessly take thousands of photos on the flowers yet do not ever consider the meaning conveyed or significance of the photo itself. Noticeably the Chinese title of this exhibition literary refers to ‘flowers ain’t flowers’, which is certainly true: there should be a deeper meaning expressed behind the images and more endeavor should be made on investigating the possibilities of the images. After all, what kind of values could photos envisaged? Paul’s exhibition gave his audiences a vehicle to define their own ideas upon photography.

Apart from the photos exhibited, it is worth taking a look at the man behind the camera. Paul Yeung was born in Hong Kong in 1978 and is undoubtedly one of the most local supreme photographers. Previously a photojournalist, he won numerous awards presented by The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, and was selected as one of the Fourteen “Hong Kong New Generation Photographers” at the Hong Kong Photography Festival 2010. Also he graduated from MA in Image and Communication (Photography) at the prestigious Goldsmiths College, University of London, which clearly shows his remarkable talent and efforts on photography. Although Yeung no longer works as a photojournalist, his photography still has much to do with the current affairs in the society, such as the parody towards the contradictory consumerism nature of the Flower Show displayed in this exhibition, and his earlier work Occupy London which captures the crowd protesting scene during the Occupation of Wall street in England last year. When asked to summarize his photographic style, he wittily answered with three things: “documentary in Art”, “serious with fun”, and “social and personal”, which reveals his rationales to record the history accurately, his pursuit of art, and more significantly, his humor and playfulness on life which makes him eminently stand out from the rest of the photographers.

In Flower Show’s curational statement, which you will find on the postcard-sized pamphlet onsite, Yeung writes: “this is our playground, and its themes are: games and representation”. Indeed he is playing a game extraordinarily in transforming the conventional way of photography to be exhibited, showing his “potential randomness and playfulness”. Creatively mixing the traditional Chinese paintings with the modern media photography, he printed the pictures on Xuan paper, added poetry and stamp on each photo, adopted the Chinese approach of mounting and hung the scrolls on the white –walled room which all intelligently has made a strong contrast. Meanwhile, sharing stark similarity of the style of Martin Parr, an England photographer, Yeung balances the lightness and heightened exposure to make the photos so unusually bright with beautiful hues, in order to bring out the topic of his imagined playground of human beings. When examining Yeung’s curational statement and his works, the “playground” presumably represents Yeung’s inner thought of a wonderland or Garden of Eden, which contains solely happiness – you are not bounded by any kinds of rules or norms restricting your own thoughts.

At the night when Hong Kong ArtWalk held, presumably due to the reason that the gallery provided beer and food with the largest quantity in that area, it received the ever-largest crowd, including celebrities, in its limited space; you could not, therefore, stand still in front of the art works for more than three minutes without nudged by the other visitors. Nevertheless it was exhilarating to see the engagement of the visitors and the livened-up atmosphere that bustles with excitement. What is important about the exhibit is that it shows the photos have encouraged the visitors to talk, think in addition to look. When visitors are visibly captivated by the pieces, meanwhile the mirthful dialogues and jolly giggles become the best background music of the scene, which ultimately match well with the cheerful playground theme of the Flower Show.

If you are in or around the Central, I suggest you nipping into this (free) exhibition. For those of you who enjoy private space and quietness more, visit it on weekdays is definitely a nice choice to avoid the crowd. In this exhibition, you may find more in it if you are a profound thinker; you may spend your time in a worthwhile way if you regard the gallery visiting as a pastime; you may even have a feeling of meeting an old friend if you share the sense of humor as Yeung does. Prints and other media are available for purchase.

The Color of China – Frank Savery’s Ceramics Collection at Leeds City Museum Review

Chinese ceramics display

Chinese ceramics display

Are you a fan of ancient Chinese ceramics? Recently a Chinese intern at Leeds Museums and Galleries, Rane Pike, made a selection from the generous bequest of more than 270 rare Chinese ceramics by Frank Savery, for a display in the Collector’s Cabinet gallery at Leeds City Museum. Now her display is on show, allowing visitors to Leeds city centre to see 42 pieces from this collection, which is also on show at Lotherton Hall, near Aberford, to the northeast of Leeds. The Savery bequest came to Leeds in 1966, after many years of collaboration between the collector and the city’s Art Gallery service. Born in Huddersfield, Savery gradually built up his collection whilst working for the Foreign Office. He was the Consul General in Warsaw for many years until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and then served in the exiled Polish embassy in London. He mainly acquired his pieces by purchase from the London antique dealers, Bluett and Sons. Unusually for the time, Savery had a deep interest in early Chinese ceramics, rather than the better known blue and white porcelains, or later multi-colored enamels.

Located next to a large introductory text panel with a map of the main kiln sites in China, the ceramics are neatly arranged in a four-shelved glass cupboard. The text panel discusses the four topics chosen for display, from celadons on the top shelf, sancai or three colour glazes on the next, then chazhan (tea bowls), and finally a range of different techiques on the bottom shelf. This selection came out of an in depth review of the collection as a whole, picking up on previous display strengths and the personal interest of the intern guiding the preparations. It should appeal to both the general visitors and those already converted to an appreciation of early Chinese ceramics.

The display is very carefully arranged and uses some of the original Chinese silk covered gift boxes to vary and increase the height of presentation on each shelf (as here with two of the tea bowls). This was an issue as many of the ceramics are quite small and might otherwise not attract much attention. The intern and curator had to plan carefully which shelf to use for which selection, and the tea bowls with their delicate internal patterning are most easily visible on the third shelf. It is a little harder to appreciate the range of watery greens of the celadons on the top shelf.

Among the different ceramics shown, there is a sancai vase which captured my attention immediately. The vase is brilliant, with three lively colors combining evenly – brown, green and yellow. Also the shape is beautiful – a flat mouth, a narrow neck, a round body mimicking a melon, followed by a base which expands outwards. Personally I love sancai (its other name is Tang sancai as it was so popular in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). It demonstrates the vibrant history of China, as the ceramic technique of applying and mixing these glazes was so amazingly advanced at the time. I also think its origin is intriguing, as the sancai ceramics were mainly, if not all, found in tombs, where they were placed to accompany the deceased into the afterlife. Related to death, the vase shows another side of life and leads me to think about the many issues of life and death.

In the future the display could maybe be improved by introducing a few angled mirrors to enable more details of particular ceramics to be visible to the visitor, by reflecting the image downwards. Perhaps some of the very lovely details on the tea bowls could be emphasised by photographic enlargements placed nearby. And maybe it would be good to have a glimpse of the other Savery pieces on show at Lotherton Hall by having a digital slide show on a small screen inside the case. Many visitors might like to know a bit more about the popular tea culture in China, both in the Song dynasty and now, and this could be presented in the format of a Find Out More A4 information sheet, as elsewhere in the City Museum. To conclude, I enjoyed the exhibition very much, and it gives a good impression of this wide ranging Chinese ceramics collection. Some pices I have never even seen in my home country as well. It is definitely worth a visit!

– See more at: http://secretlivesofobjects.blogspot.com/#sthash.8rgbaUmz.dpuf

A Visit to The Pittrivers Museum – Oxford, England, the U.K.

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It is a nice museum with free admission. You will almost immediately feel the profound history of Oxford when looking at the facade of the building. And after stepping in, you will be amazed by the massive number of the collections and a huge totem pole standing in the middle of the gallery. It is an absolutely stunning view.

Pittrivers Museum is a 3-floor building, displaying a ‘worldwide collections from many cultures past and present’. There is no start or finish in the exploration of the museum, as there is no chronological order of the displayed objects. Instead, the objects are grouped according to how they were made or used. For instance, the ground floor showcases the theme of ‘magic, masks ,with subheadings such as ‘treatment of the dead’, ‘transportation and navigation’; and first floor is about ‘tattoos, tools, toys’, while the second floor is about ‘shields and spears’, The focus is how human beings have tackled the common problems of daily life, and adapted to the environment in which they live.

The display style is ancient-like, which is intriguing to me. There are about 30 cupboards organized both near walls and in the middle; if looking at the floor plan, it is like the interior of a pinball machine. The ceiling is very high so some cupboards can reach as tall as 2 meters. It can even hold a standing Egyptian coffin. This design is somehow like a maze, which triggers the curiosity the visitors to engage into it. It is notable that there are explanations plaque placed inside the cupboard, not with a separate cardboard on the wall that the other museums usually do. Information is detailed and interesting, with appropriate length.

To sum, the atmosphere is relaxing and you would definitely want to spend a day there immersing yourself in the world of antiques and excellent collections!