Dragon and Phoenix – Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds will run until February 2022 at Louvre Abu Dhabi
Louvre Abu Dhabi is welcoming visitors in the UAE capital to explore its second international exhibition of 2021. Titled Dragon and Phoenix – Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds, the showcase will run until February 12, 2022, and will shine a light on the cultural and artistic exchange between the Chinese and Islamic civilisations from the eighth to the 18th century.
Visitors will be able to explore cultural connections through more than 200 artworks from the collections of Louvre Abu Dhabi, The Guimet Museum as well as 12 international museums and institutions, alongside a wide-ranging cultural programme.
A walk through Louvre Abu Dhabi
Dragon and Phoenix places in dialogue artefacts from two worlds rich in culture, arts, and sciences: China (the dragon) and the Islamic world (the phoenix). The exhibition showcases the connections, artistic influences and remarkable untold stories of more than 800 years of exchange through land and sea trade routes, from the establishment of the first Arab merchant colonies in Canton in the eighth century until the beginning of the 18th century. Journeying from the Mashriq and the Arabian Peninsula through Central Asia and the Indian Ocean, and to China and Vietnam, the exhibition reveals a long and rich history of mutual admiration and influence reflected in both material and immaterial exchanges.
The exhibition aims to highlight unconventional centres of artistic and cultural production. With both a physical exhibition at the museum and an online experience, it will shed light on how centuries of cultural exchange and the prolific artistic production between the two worlds reveal dominance of coveted luxury materials and artworks between the eighth and 18th centuries.
The exhibition is curated by Sophie Makariou, President of Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, with the support of Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director, and Guilhem André, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Chief Curator of Asian and Medieval arts.
Cup with dragon-shaped handle
Dish with throne scene
Fabulous animal, dragon
Funerary figure (mingqi): Caravanner on a camel
Octagonal cup with phoenix decoration
Highlights from the exhibition include a rare Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) gold Cup with dragon-shaped handle from China, a masterpiece from Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection that may have been made for a nomadic dignitary in the north of China. Visitors will marvel at some of the most spectacular luxury silk fabrics ever created: the Panni Tartarici (or Tartar cloths) – Mongol silk fabric with gold threads – from the collection of the Musée Mational des arts asiatiques – Guimet, which clearly attests to influences from other textile traditions, such as those of Iran, the Near East and Central Asia. Also from the collection of the Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet is a Fabulous animal (perhaps a dragon), showing the impressive chiselling technique on gilded silver, a rare creation from the Liao Dynasty (907/916-1125). Dragon and Phoenix also highlights the ‘alliance of the two pens’, the brush in China and the reed pen in the Islamic world. Thanks to a superb selection of drawings, manuscripts and ink paintings, the exhibition shows the similarities and the spiritual value placed on the two calligraphic traditions.
With more than 200 artefacts spread across five sections—the first four following a historical timeline, and the fifth focusing on literary traditions of calligraphy and poetry —Dragon and Phoenix showcases this history of a fluid global context of artistic and cultural exchanges in earlier times. The exhibition features a diversity of artworks, including paintings, silverware, ceramic, glassware, manuscripts and luxury fabrics, with an international repertoire combining Arab epigraphy, chinoiseries, lotuses, geometrical decoration, dragons, phoenixes and many other fantastic bestiaries.
Dragon and Phoenix features artworks from Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection, as well as loaned objects from Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, Musée du Louvre, Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Archives nationales, Cité de la céramique – Sèvres et Limoges, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Musée de Cluny – musée national du Moyen Âge, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée Jacquemart-André – Institut de France, Musée national de la Renaissance – Château d’Ecouen, Muséum national d’Histoire Naturelle, and Musée des Tissus de Lyon.
The exhibition invites visitors to discover new historical perspectives and to observe how artworks and motifs showcase these stories of exchanges, interactions and migrations. Visitors will discover incredible interconnections between these great civilisations, with the exhibition unveiling production influences that otherwise would have been undiscerned.
As with every international exhibition, Louvre Abu Dhabi asks visitors to see the interconnectedness of our world through art, questioning our own preconceptions and embracing global art histories, whose complexities enrich the understanding of our world.