Global by Design: Chinese Ceramics from the R. Albuquerque Collection

New exhibition coming soon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Global by Design: Chinese Ceramics from the R. Albuquerque Collection will focus on the period—from the late 16th to the 18th century—when Chinese porcelain became a global luxury, transforming both the European ceramic industry and styles of dining and drinking. The exhibition will feature 60 exquisite and unusual pieces in a presentation that challenges the long-standing, and overly rigid, tradition of cataloguing Chinese ceramics as domestic or trade items. In addition to exploring the trade in Chinese ceramics within Asia, the exhibition will focus on the development of shapes and designs that reflect the long history of exchange between China and the Islamic world as well as the period—the late 16th century—when works reflecting both the Chinese and Islamic traditions were introduced and incorporated into Europe and the Americas.

The exhibition will also explore the ways in which 18th-century artists, when faced with the global idioms that had developed at the time, made artistic choices that allowed them to create an endless range of spectacular and visually imaginative works. From an important Brazilian private collection, the porcelains in Global by Design: Chinese Ceramics from the R. Albuquerque Collection have never before been exhibited.

The introduction of porcelain to Europe can be traced to the fascinating period between the late 15th and early 16th centuries known as the “Age of Exploration.” This period includes both the discovery by Vasco da Gama (1460–1524) in 1498 of a maritime route around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa to South and East Asia, and the slightly earlier travels of Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) that led to the discovery of the Americas. Supported by Portuguese and Spanish courts, both explorers were searching for a sea route that would provide quicker access to coveted Asian luxuries, including tea, spices, silk, and porcelain.

When the Portuguese first reached China in the 16th century, China was the only place in the world producing porcelain, and the extensive kiln complex at Jingdezhen dominated this production. Portuguese rulers were the first Europeans to order specific pieces from China and distribute them for general trade. Commonly known as the “first orders,” these pieces often featured royal or religious (Catholic) imagery that had been introduced to China through coins and other trade goods.

In the early 17th century, after the Dutch auctioned porcelain from two captured Portuguese ships, porcelain also became widespread throughout northern Europe, where it was displayed on sideboards, walls, and ceilings, and also used for dining. By the late 17th and 18th centuries, with the ongoing exchange of shapes and designs now well established by the trade in porcelain, a global artistic language developed in which an endless range of spectacular and visually imaginative pieces were created by clay artists working in China, Europe, and around the world.

The exhibition is organized by Denise Leidy, Brooke Russell Astor Curator of Chinese Art, Department of Asian Art, and Jeffrey Munger, Curator, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, of the Metropolitan Museum. On view at the Wrightsman Galleries, First Floor, Gallery 521, from the 25th of April to the 7th of August.

The catalogue named after the exhibition was published by Jorge Welsh Research&Publishing.

More information on MET's website.