The Future Museum of National Palace Museum: Passé-Future Exhibition

Tags: art | National Palace Museum

The National Palace Museum has established “Future Museum” exhibition section at Taoyuan International Airport, which is such of pioneering mode of exhibition among each of the major domestic museums and fine arts museums. It has broken loose of existing exhibition domain of contemporary arts as artworks are displayed at airport with international vision.

There have been already many museums worldwide that have put on exhibitions that integrate would new media technologies or new media arts, and hold relevant arts festivals. However, the National Palace Museum should be considered as the very pioneer that puts on exhibition initiated by museum itself to integrate new media arts, and the museum has created such unique exhibition upon the integration of digitalized pictures of the museum with new technology.

The exhibition has six sub-themes, including (1) Crossing Times and Space, (2) A Way To Empire, (3) Palace Fine Arts, (4) Literati Mind Imprint, (5) The Taste of Daily Life, and (6) Religious World. The storylines of these themes are connected to each other, and they start from the formation of empire since NPM collection begins with the ancient imperial collection. This part is followed by the development of refined palace arts, which forms the main body of museum collections along Chinese dynasties. The literati art rises after as a counter-movement and the trend is focused on the style of landscape painting. And to the late period of literati art, “blandness” has been viewed as the highest artistic achievement. Besides the history of the museum collection and history of Chinese art, “Crossing Times and Space” marks the openness of the Future Museum of NPM, and stresses the aspect of reinterpretation of the past. In the last, the exhibition ends with Religious World with the images of numerous objects of religious art collections that receive less attention in the past, while it suggests the history of the Museum itself. It explains how imperial collections were handed down to the folks, becoming the cultural heritage shared by the civilians and as such, they are connected to the indiscriminative human care in the religious world.

Artwork Introduction

Echoes of Reflection, Shadows of Reflection

“Echoes of Reflections” and “Shadows of Reflections” are mainly inspired by the “Porcelain vase with a rotating interior and decoration of fish in a cobalt blue glaze” and the “Yi with animal-shaped handle and legs in the form of human figures” of the NPM's collection.  “Echoes of Reflections” presents a replica of the “Porcelain vase with a rotating interior and decoration of fish in a cobalt blue glaze” from the Ch'ien-Lung reign. However, the replica does not copy the colors, it is only a white vase. This vase is placed on the surface of a table, naturally creating a reflection in the table's glass surface; but the white reflection gradually changes into the original colors of the vase, and then back to white again. The mirror image reflects an echo of past to present. The other piece, “Shadows of Reflections”, places an actual reproduction of the “Yi with animal-shaped handle and legs in the form of human figures” on a table with a dark glass surface, again creating a natural reflection. In it the people depicted on the Jug begin to walk, and the beasts begin to stir; and sometime ripples surround the bottom of the vase. The images are like reflections, still, yet moving, projecting a shadow of past to present.

A Way to Empire

 “A Way to Empire” is a video installation that looks back on the formation and disintegration of historical myths. A ba-gua shaped (octagonal) display table is placed in the exhibition space, with a transparent rotating south-pointing chariot at the centre. There are four glass panes on the ba-gua, playing a loop of four short digital animations: “Legend”, “Empire”, “Priceless”, and “Rarities”. The films are mainly based on the collection of the NPM, condensing through humorous montages, five thousand years of historical symbols into a symbolic representation of the imperial, as a lead in to this special exhibition.


The traditions of Chinese painting always express the wandering person (whether physically or metaphysically, as subject of object of perception) and the concept of crossing over. The use of technology (such as the virtual reality of Plano-Convex Lens groups) enables the audience to participate in the virtual experience of “human --> nature --> artistic expression”.

Sangsara1, Sangsara 2

The title Sangsara originally meant “turning” or “rotating” in Sanskrit, in other words “the cycle of transmigration”. The director uses film to express the stark contrast between the finitude of life and the human body, and the infinity of the Buddhist collection at the NPM. The other film jumps back-and forward between past, present, and the virtual future of the digitalised NPM.

Contemporary Interpretation of an Old Masterpiece

Ku Kai-Chih's <Admonitions of the Instructress to the Palace Ladies >is now in the collection of the British Museum. The Screen Paint-drawings attributed to Sima Jin-Long Cemetery in Northern Wei, and the pictorial brick of the <Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove and Rong Qi-Qi>which found in Nanjing and the carvings of Ningmao stone chamber in Northern Wei are often compared in painting circles, confirming that their styles are of the same period. Amongst these pieces, the<Admonitions of the Instructress to the Palace Ladies> has been attributed to Ku Kai-Chih but still remains to be proved.

What the limited information tells us is that the depictions of characters and landscape correspond in style. However, there are great differences in terms of composition and the ratio between persons and nature. Chu Chia-Hua is of the opinion that the paintings attributed to Ku Kai-Chih in the history of painting, are not necessarily more artistic than the above lacquer screens, brick relieves, or line carved stone coffins; not to mention that most of his works are said to be copies from the T'ang or Sung dynasties.

When the NPM invited Chu Chia-Hua to create a contemporary piece for this exhibition, Chu decided to copy <One Hundred Horses> by Lang Shih-Ning of Ch'ing Dynasty. His intentions and connotations were similar with the relationship between<Admonitions of the Instructress to the Palace Ladies> and the paintings of Northern Wei. Although Chu's concepts were derived from Lang Shih-Ning‘s painting, he had infused his personal imagination and concepts of contemporary arts into his artwork for the audience.

The Taste of Daily Life

The Chinese philosophy that man and nature are one, means that there are endless possibilities to find beauty in nature. “Clouds disperse after rains celadon-color sky emerges, such color will come out”, as the old saying goes, the most beautiful celadon glaze too, is inspired by nature. This installation comprises three back projections of Ju Ware, each Emptiness & Dropping Rains, Snowing Flowers, and Dispersing Clouds & Celadon Sky. When the viewer blows in to the flower shaped pipe, the rain drops, petals, clouds and fog will come to life; and when the viewer stops blowing, the layered “crackles” of the Ju Ware will slowly appear, turning the three screens into giant celadon wares.

The audience literally breathing life in to the clouds, fog, flowers and rain drops of the celadon, symbolise the process through which the artful craftsmen take their inspiration from nature, and blow life in to their eternal pieces of art.

Digital Project Display Area

The collection of the NPM span hundreds of thousands of miles, and five thousand years of history, but we are following the trends of information technology and are working hard on our digitalisation; we hope that with the help of technology, we can bring the enjoyments of traditional arts and paintings closer to our audience. This area uses “Appreciating Antiquities” of Ming painter Tu Chin as interface to connect the digitalised collection of the NPM, making it possible for the audience to enjoy the collection just like the characters in the paintings, strolling along the long river of history.

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