China blockbuster opens at the NGV

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The National Gallery of Victoria’s new Winter Masterpieces series explores the art and culture of China’s past and present.  

In 1974, farmers digging a well in China’s Shaanxi Province made one of the world’s most astonishing archaeological finds of the twentieth century. Just one metre underground, they discovered the 2000-year-old tomb of China’s first emperor filled with more than 6000 terracotta warriors intended to protect him in the afterlife.

This National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) exhibition brings you up close with eight of those clay life-size warriors and horses from the tomb (modelled on the Imperial Army), plus priceless ancient gold, jade and bronze artefacts from throughout the province.  

First emperor, Qin Shi Huang, ruled from 221BC until his death at 49-years-old in 210BC. His tomb – which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is often described as the eighth wonder of the world – continues to be excavated.  

Presented in parallel is an exhibition by one of China’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, 61-year-old Cai Gio-Qiang, whose works here – including 10,000 suspended porcelain birds and drawings made from gunpowder – pay homage to the history, geography and culture from during the First Emperor’s reign.

For a taste of what to expect, including an interview with NGV’s Senior Curator of Asian Art, Wayne Crothers, check out our video.

Melbourne Winter Masterpieces: Terracotta Warriors & Cai Gio-Qiang is at the NGV until October 2019.