Sublimes matières — A travers 5 000 ans de création en Chine


Ceramic, painting, photography, sculpture

Sublimes matières
A travers 5 000 ans de création en Chine

Past: March 26 → June 9, 2014

Transcending material — 5,000 years of Chinese Art takes visitors on a journey through a century of French national collections of Chinese Art that have been compiled in the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques — Guimet (Guimet National Museum of Asian Art) since its foundation in 1889. The exhibition offers a poetic exploration celebrating 5,000 years of creativity through emblematic materials such as silk, jade, bronze, lacquer, paper and ink and porcelain.

A world of forms and materials

The exhibition takes visitors on a chronological journey, where they can admire China’s artistic and cultural development through the ages and the consistent use of materials that are its hallmark. It covers founder Émile Guimet’s various trips to China and the gradual formation of the museum’s Chinese Art collections. Visitors are transported to the heart of a civilisation that changed the course of human history and art through its many discoveries, such as porcelain, jade, bronze, silk, lacquer and ink and paper. 5,000 years of art is displayed, with a consistent use of materials but a varied repertoire of forms.

Musee guimet sublimes matieres jarre a decor de fleurs medium
Jarre à décor de fleurs et oiseaux, Chine, fours de Jingdezhen (province du Jiangxi) Dynastie Ming, période Jiajing (1522-1566) MNAAG, Paris — Collection Grandidier ; G 4119 © D.R.

Transcending material focusses particularly on the original approach of Chinese artists through their specific work on these materials, which are so symbolic of the Chinese aesthetic, and representative of its artistic creativity.

A selection of works will delve into the history of techniques and examine in detail some of the enduring themes of Chinese Art. Writing is a foundational and central component of Chinese civilisation, and appears on ancient bronzes, before being given expression in the great works of calligraphy on paper. In addition to calligraphy, brush and ink work offer some of the greatest masterpieces of Chinese painting. Jade was sought after in China from the earliest times, and in the 12th century, its subtle shades inspired ceramic imitations known as “celadons”, whose soft, warm and transparent aspect, so reminiscent of the green stone, attracts collectors of the Song period (960- 1279). The play of similarities between materials and constant references to forms and motifs form the leitmotif of this exhibition, which is dedicated to the entire history of Imperial China.

Musee guimet sublimes matieres recipient a couvercle medium
Récipient à couvercle Chine, Fin du 3ème siècle av. J.-C, Bronze à incrustations d’or et d’argent MNAAG, Paris — Acquisition 1953 ; MA 1383 © D.R.

Transcending material is an exploration and journey through China that offers visitors a new perspective on a collection of unrivalled masterpieces held in French national collections.

A presentation of old photographs of the Chavannes (1907) and Segalen (1909 and 1914) excavations also tells the story of the origins of Western interest in China and introduces the exhibition and the founder of the museum, Émile Guimet (1836-1918). An exceptional pair of porcelain vases, given to him by Empress Cixi in 1877, will also be displayed.

True pioneers

Émile Guimet was a visionary who wanted to create a museum of the history of religions. As a consequence, the museum’s collections present a scientific view of Chinese Art, based on archaeological work (including excavations by Segalen and Chavannes), which is a far cry from the infatuation with all things Chinese that was very fashionable until the 19th century. In 1945, the Louvre’s Asian collections were donated to the Guimet Museum, which gained exceptionally high quality works of art, including ceramics collected by Ernest Grandidier. Many followed in the footsteps of this collector, and thanks to the generosity of patrons and the museum’s purchasing policy, numerous new works have been added to the collections of the Guimet National Museum of Asian Art over its 125 years in existence. They now form the core of a unique collection with an essential contribution to make both to the history of art and Chinese archaeology.

  • Ateliers pour adultes, Jeux de pinceaux chinois avec Fong Jok Wah Event March 8 → June 28, 2014

    Stage d’une journée
    Les samedis 8 mars, 24 mai et 28 juin
    10h30-12h30 et 14h00-16h00
    Durée : 4h/ Tarif : 52 Euros
    Réservation obligatoire

Musée Guimet Museum
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6, place d’Iéna

75016 Paris

T. 01 56 52 53 00


Opening hours

Every day except Tuesday, 10 AM – 6 PM

Admission fee

Full rate €7,50€ — 8 — Concessions €5,50€ — 6

Free admission to exhibitions for young people under 18 years