'Art Diplomacy': two exhibits at the Vatican Museums and Beijing’s Imperial Palace
Two Chinese officials – Zhu Jiancheng, secretary general of the China Culture Investment Found, and Maestro Zhang Yan – took part in the announcement at the Holy See Press Office. Zhang has given Pope Francis two paintings. The parallel exhibits will have two different names: ‘Beauty unites us’ in the Vatican, and ‘Contemporary Sino-Vatican Exhibit’ in China. The pope is compared to a sacred mountain.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Vatican Museums Director Barbara Jatta announced parallel exhibits for next spring at the Vatican Museums and the Forbidden City in Beijing. She described the exchange as ‘arts diplomacy’.
Jiancheng Zhu, secretary general of the China Culture Investment Found, and Maestro Zhang Yan were present at the press conference in which the two exhibits were announced.
Mgr Paolo Nicolini, delegate for the Administrative-Management sectors of the Vatican Museums, and Fr Nicola Mapelli, PIME, curator of the Anima Mundi ethnological museum of the Vatican Museums, were also in attendance.
Many of Vatican works of arts to be exhibited in Beijing are Chinese, collected over the centuries by popes and missionaries.
Speaking at the press conference, the representatives of the Vatican Museums said that the Holy Father told them that "beauty and art" should be "a vehicle of dialogue on man’s behalf", that the museums favour a “dialogue between cultures and religions”, and should be “instruments of peace ".
The Chinese representatives echoed such views. Zhu Jiancheng said the upcoming exhibit will be an event that "crosses borders and time and unites cultures, and will further strengthen the friendship between China and the Vatican, and will promote normalisation of diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican".
He noted however that "cultural exchange precedes diplomacy" and that his involvement is only cultural and non-political, because, as he explained, "the China Culture Investment Found was established in 2011 by the relevant government ministries of the People's Republic of China but is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting culture and exchanges with other countries.
The parallel exhibits will have two different names: ‘Beauty unites us’ in the Vatican, and ‘Contemporary Sino-Vatican Exhibition’ in China. Each will show 40 works of art.
Fr Mapelli listed some of the works that will go to Beijing, including precious objects from the Tang era, old paintings of the Great Wall, paintings with religious themes, all restored with the help of Chinese experts.
It is unclear what works will come from China. In any case, the Vatican exhibit will include two paintings by Maestro Yan Zhang, which he donated to Pope Francis on 31 May, and are based on his experience in Tibet.
In his address, Yan Zhang compared Pope Francis to a sacred mountain ("white as snow, white also as the pope's cassock. The mountain as his body with the cross he carries").
He ended expressing hope that "in the 21st century, the extraordinary plan to build a solid bridge of dialogue between Beijing and the Vatican will surely make the Silk Road shine again! May friendship and peace reign in the world!"